Letter: Young people can learn from Du Bois's example

By Tristan Alston, Sunday May 28th, 2017, Berkshire Eagle 

To the editor:

In times of adversity, when the morality and well-being of the future seem to be threatened, people look to their leaders for guidance. This leadership can be found in present figures, or in those who worked diligently and passionately in the past, whose lessons and messages continue to resonate.

W.E.B. Du Bois is among the top of the list of influential and relevant leaders from the past, and while his teachings are treasured by scholars and activists around the world, he gave a special part of his soul to the town of Great Barrington, in which he found his voice and his passion for change. Now more than ever, the brilliance and compassion that defined Du Bois must be remembered, and emulated to the best of our ability.

Du Bois's constant search for truth and his demand for equality inspire Great Barrington's upcoming 150th anniversary celebration of his birth (Feb. 23, 2018). For Du Bois spoke with an honesty, dignity, and empathy that seemed to transcend politics, the color line, and the poverty line. He understood the importance of education, devoting much of his life teaching young people, whom he felt could have the greatest effect, to confront hatred and ignorance. Du Bois recognized the essential role of youth in the shaping of a better, brighter future, where acts of love and understanding supplant those of hate and closed-mindedness.

As young people in this community, we can learn a great deal from Du Bois's example. He shows us not only how to give voice to our opinions and beliefs, but also how to remain persistent and hopeful regardless of the opposition, or the apparent hopelessness of the situations we may face.

Young and old alike salute Great Barrington for acknowledging the work that Du Bois so wholeheartedly committed himself to accomplishing, work that continues to bring people together from all walks of life, no matter their age, race, or socioeconomic status. Above all else, Great Barrington has embraced Du Bois's message of compassion, education, and unity, a powerful message that defines our community. And this is the heart of the matter.

Tristan Alston,

Great Barrington

A junior at Monument Mountain Regional High school, the writer is student ambassador the W.E.B. Du Bois Center in Great Barrington and the Du Bois 150th Anniversary Committee.