Oct 03, 2017

Mass. Trial Courts Celebrate Cultural Appreciation Day

On any given day, you might enter a courthouse in Massachusetts and see the busy workings of the justice system. On Thursday, September 28, visitors and staff at 30 Massachusetts court facilities celebrated Cultural Appreciation Day with music, food, and artwork from around the world.
Cultural Appreciation Day got its start in July 2016 thanks to the Probation Department, where a supervisor recognized the importance of strengthening cross-cultural bonds in furthering justice and community relations. They trained 120 volunteers from the probation staff as “cultural proficiency champions” in their courthouses. This year, the Trial Court expanded the event by planning the appreciation days at 30 courts, including probation staff, security staff, administrative staff and officials, and even judges.
“Cultural Appreciation Day gives us a friendly way to begin conversations about the similarities and differences among our cultures, and those conversations can have a substantial impact down the road on justice and safety,” said Margaret Thompson, president of NAGE Local 229, which represents probation officers.
A sampling from around the courts:
  • A luncheon at Taunton District Court included foods from Central and South America, the Caribbean, Cape Verde, European and Native American traditions. A staffer of Scottish and Irish descent played the bagpipes. Thanks to Flojana Desroches of Local 229, who helped organized the luncheon, and David Pavão (Local 229), Claudia Goncalves (Local 229), Candace Vardaxis (Local 118) and Danny Steele (Local 458) for participating. (You can read more about it in this piece from the Taunton Daily Gazzette.)
  • At the Fall River Justice Center, musicians and dancers performed a wide variety of numbers for court staff and visitors in the plaza on South Main Street, while flags from different countries decorated the windows above. Thanks to Grace Monteiro and John Lopes, the Local 118 members who coordinated the events. Noting the Portuguese, Cape Verdean, Cambodian, Irish, Mediterranean and African dishes on the menu, Superior Court Judge Raffi Yessayan told a local reporter, “Food is always a great way to start the conversation.” (The Herald News has more about the event.)
  • Quincy District Court’s lobby was decorated with posters representing countries all over the world, thanks to the artistic talents of students at Quincy’s nearby Sterling Middle School. Community groups participated to reach out to passersby in several languages. Outside, African drummers, Irish step dancers, and a Tai Chi fan and sword dancer provided entertainment. Thanks to Quincy’s organizer, Local 229 member Andrea Davis. (You can see more in the Patriot Ledger’s coverage here.)
You can see local media coverage of other events around the state here:
·         Springfield
·         Worcester
·         New Bedford
·         Greenfield
·         Barnstable

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One of the pictures from local schoolchildren posted in the Hampden County Hall of Justice in Springfield, where NAGE members and court personnel celebrated Cultural Appreciation Day on September 28, 2017. Photo by Dave Roback of the Springfield Republica
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