The lawn of First Church Natick once again is the site the Purple Flag Project, a striking installation of thousands of flags placed in remembrance of the number of lives lost to opioid overdose in Massachusetts in 2021. The sobering number this year has been confirmed at 2,290 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. That’s up by 186 from 2021. The display was put into place yesterday by volunteers working with SOAR (Supporting Outreach and Addiction Recovery), a Natick-based support group for those with a loved one suffering with substance abuse.
Eileen Collett, one of SOAR’s founders, said each flag “represents a person and that’s how we think about them. Every one of these people had someone who cared about them. When you see all the flags, you see the depth of how many there are and the despair of the numbers.”
Collett considers herself one of the lucky ones. Her son is in long-term recovery, married and expecting a baby soon. “A lot of my friends in this group don’t have that luxury. It’s alarming that there’s not more being done.”
In addition to the purple flags, red flags are also placed by family members and friends to remember the lives lost in any year to substance use. Red flags are available in a bin for anyone to personalize and add to the display.
The Purple Flag Project will be on display in Natick Center through September 11. From there it will go to the property of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where it will be visible along busy Route 16 September 12 – 26. Next the project will go to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where it will be on view October 2-8.
Book bans are on the rise across the country. According to the American Library Association (ALA), libraries in every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books last year. The ALA notes that most of the challenged books in 2021 were written by Black or LGBTQIA+ authors. Locally, although staff at Natick’s Morse Institute Library say they’re grateful that the community welcomes a diverse set of books, it hasn’t stopped library staff and trustees from proactively making a big statement about the freedom to read.
The library this week has installed an interactive public art display in front of the Natick Center building to remind the public of the importance of the freedom to read. Library Director Miki Wolfe said, ‘The interactive fREADom installation invites our community to use the provided chalk to write the titles of books that they are delighted to have the freedom to read.”
The fine print on the fREADom Wall says the installation is inspired by the Before I Die project, a global art project that invites people to reflect upon their mortality and consider the things that matter most. Their website says there are over 5,000 such walls around the world. If you’ve ever come across a Before I Die wall (we haven’t, but we don’t get out much), participants list things they’d like to do before they, well, you know. Popular sentiments include “make a difference,” “accomplish all my dreams,” and “rule the world.”
On the Morse Institute’s fREADom wall, instead of bucket list items, participants fill in the blank in the sentence FREADOM is reading _________. When we stopped by, titles on the wall included:
Maus, the Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, by Art Spiegelman. (Banned in a Tennessee school district in early 2022 due to “inappropriate language” and nudity.)
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, also a Pulitzer prize winner, about Scout and Jem Finch as their childhood innocence is stripped away when their father Atticus defends a Black man falsely accused of rape. (Removed this year from required classroom reading lists in Burbank, CA this year due to its use of racial epithets.)
Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, recounts Kobabe’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, ultimately identifying as being outside of the gender binary. (Called pornographic by parents, and removed from public school shelves in Loudon County, Virginia.)
With the fREADom wall, the Morse Institute librarians and board members say they seek to champion, “the freedom to speak, the freedom to publish, and the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”
A School District School Board in Palmer, Alaska, in 2021 voted to remove I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, and four other books, from the school curriculum, due to what was identified as their controversial nature. Angelou’s autobiography recounts her early years, which were marked by racism and rape. Caged Bird was called out by a board member as containing “anti-white messaging.” After community members protested the school board’s vote, it rescinded its decision, and the books remain available in the schools.
Check out Natick Report’s Instagram account for a video of the fREADom wall. Please follow Natick Report on Instagram while you’re there.
A celebration of the many cultures within Natick brought dance, music, and dramatic performances, food, and a spirit of camaraderie to the Common Street Spiritual Center and Natick Common on Saturday. Multicultural Day 2022, presented by the Natick Center Cultural District, showcased the song and dance talents of the Natick India Group; traditional Irish dancing; a classical Chinese dance and story presentation by the Minghui Academy Boston; and more.
The free event brought Natick residents and visitors from beyond the town to enjoy a day of education, entertainment, and fun.
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While the Memorial track and turf field are off-limits due to renovations, organizers of Red Hawk Fest put the field behind the bleachers to good use on Sunday in welcoming Natick High School students for a fun field day featuring food, music, and lots of activities.
Natick Public Schools, the Natick Police Department, and volunteers oversaw the event, which attracted dozens of students, many traveling in packs between the various activities available. This included big inflatables, an escape room, corn hole, and crafts. The Rotary Club of Natick served up food, as did a food truck with frozen treats.
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