If you’re a Chelsea student who enjoys scientific exploration, then the Latimer Society’s third annual Chelsea Science Festival is a must-go on your summer calendar.
Latimer Society Co-Directors Leo Robinson and Ronald Robinson are calling this year’s event, “Science Carnival,” which means it will be both educational and fun.
The Carnival will be held on Friday, Aug. 10, from noon to 5 p.m., at the Port Park, 99 Marginal Street. Joseph and Shelagh McNamee of Eastern Minerals have generously donated the facility for the event, and it’s proven to be a perfect venue with its waterfront location.
“What we’re trying to do is bring practitioners of science together with members of the community, children, and families,” said Ronald Robinson. “We’re trying to get our younger students involved in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, but we do STEAM and the ‘A’ stands for art.”
Robinson said the event will have local and regional scientists and science-oriented organizations in attendance.
“It’s our big event of the summer,” said Robinson. “We’re also working with CAPIC’s youth development center once a week this summer with a program that helps youth learn about designing.”
What activities can students expect when they arrive at the Science Carnival?
They will have access to interactive stations staffed by representatives from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and the Suffolk County Mosquito Board, and of course, the Latimer Society, which is named for the brilliant scientist and inventor Lewis Howard Latimer, who was born in Chelsea in 1848.
“We’re all about promoting science because he [Latimer] was a noted scientist,” said Ronald Robinson.
The event is free of charge and open to students from Chelsea and other communities. Refreshments will be available.
“We expect students from Chelsea, Everett, East Boston, and Revere to be at the carnival,” said Leo Robinson, a longtime city councillor in Chelsea whose life has been dedicated to helping local students and athletes.
In concluding the interview about the Aug. 10 event, Ronald Robinson told a heartwarming story about two Chelsea students, ages 14 and 15, whom he had asked about their future career aspirations.
“One student said he’d like to play at Duke and in the NBA,” said Robinson. “I asked him what else he would like to be doing after college. So now I have him and his friend rebuilding a 3-D printer and they’re really enthusiastic about the project. And that’s what we do at the Latimer Society. We connect our youth with the sciences.”
And Ronald and Leo Robinson having been doing that well at the Latimer Society for more than 20 years.
Celeste Williams works on one of her abstract paintings while Tony Smith plays percussion in the background during the Chelsea Science Festival on Friday, Aug. 4, put on by the Lewis Latimer Society of Chelsea at the PORT Park. It was the second year for the Festival, and science disciplines from computers to environment to fire science were represented.
Leo and Ron Robinson are shown at the Chelsea Public Library in the Lewis Latimer Museum last week after announcing
that they will hold a local remembrance of the famed inventor on April 9, and then will travel to Connecticut
on April 11 to accept an award for their work in STEM.
The Lewis Latimer Society of Chelsea will be holding a local commemoration of National Engineers Month this coming week at the Chelsea Public Library, and then taking that show on the road to Connecticut, where an organization there will honor the Chelsea group for its work with kids and its groundbreaking research into the prominent, African American inventor.
The first event will take place on Thursday, April 9 at the Library from 4-7 p.m. and is titled ‘Recognizing a Hometown Hero: Lewis Howard Quincy Latimer.’ Latimer was born in Chelsea and was a prominent inventor working for folks such as Thomas Edison. He was the inventor of the carbon filament used in the lightbulb, among many other things.
Leo and Ron Robinson – who head up the Chelsea society – said they are holding the local celebration to highlight National Engineers Month and to remind everyone in Chelsea about the contribution of its hometown “hero.”
The local celebration will give way to an awards ceremony in Trumbull, CT where the Juneteenth of Fairfield County organization will hold a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) gala.
The black-tie affair will feature an appearance by Hugh Price, the great grand nephew of Latimer and also the former president of the National Urban League.
In conjunction with his presentation will be an award ceremony on April 11 honoring the Chelsea society’s historic work and STEM work.
“We hope that Thursday will be a time to celebrate the Lewis Latimer society and a time to celebrate of a man from Chelsea who was a prominent inventor and engineer,” said Ron Robinson. “This is a man whose inventions still have an effect on the lives of many people worldwide. We plan to recognize that, in particular the carbon filament. At the same time, we’ll be going to Connecticut to accept an award for working with kids in STEM…This award recognizes our activities with STEM that we’ve done.”
Leo Robinson said a big part of the celebration of Latimer in Connecticut is that many down there have just realized that Latimer lived and worked in the area.
“It’s going to be a big weekend down there on Lewis Latimer,” he said. “They’re naming a street after him. He did live in Bridgeport and he had a few inventions patented when he was there…This is big and a huge honor. You don’t get a lot of honors, but you really don’t do it for the honors. They’re just now realizing that Lewis Latimer lived there and just how important he was. We hope to be able to share what we’ve learned with them.”
The Robinsons were in a similar boat as those in Fairfield County back in 1996.
They said they had always worked with kids, trying to keep them in school and trying to stress the importance of academics. In the course of that, they were looking for a black man from Chelsea that they could point to as successful in the area of mathematics and engineering.
“We wanted a role model who was from Chelsea for when we worked with the kids,” Ron said. “We wanted to be able to point to someone who had accomplished something great so that we could keep kids in high school. We also wanted to stress black history with the youth as well. We had some descendants of Latimer at that time still living in Chelsea. They relayed the story to us. Little did we know, when we began looking into the man, that he was so prominent and there were all these societies dedicated to his work. They all wanted to know more about the man and his beginnings in Chelsea. Yet, we had nothing at the time recognizing that he was even from here.”
Cobbling together science materials and introducing young people to the every-day science around the City, the Robinsons put together a program that taught about the history of Latimer – even visiting the sites where he lived – and stressed the importance of his inventions.
“A big thing we had was we took kids to college campuses to speak to them,” he said. “They hd to understand that to get there, to get to a place like Latimer got in his career, they had to open their books. They had to study to have a better future. Many of the kids had never talked about college until they experienced the campus on a visit. They would often come home and talk to their parents for the first time about their plans to attend college.”
Ron (left) and Leo (right) Robinson with a picture of the
late Dr. Winifred Latimer, who passed away at the age of
99 earlier this month. Dr. Latimer was the last remaining
granddaughter of inventor Lewis Latimer (who was born
in Chelsea) and helped the Robinsons start their Society in
Chelsea 15 years ago. They plan to put together a history
show in her honor.
Latimer Society founders Ron and Leo Robinson announced last week that the last remaining granddaughter of Lewis Latimer – the renowned inventor who was born in Chelsea – has passed away and the Society will put on a show in April to honor her.
Dr. Winifred Latimer, 99, passed away earlier this month, and the Robinsons said it is a loss that their organization cannot ignore. The local Society had hosted her in Chelsea numerous times for lectures and opening, and she had donated a number of original Latimer artifacts to the Society over the years.
“We are hoping to have the show in April and dedicate it to her and also mark our 15th Anniversary,” said Ron Robinson. “Without Winifred, we would have never got the type of information we have. There are pages and pages and pages of information about Latimer on the Internet, but it’s all the same stuff. We have original and firsthand information from her and we have Chelsea-specific information about Latimer and his family. We have documents and items that were his during his life and are related to Chelsea. Latimer was very important in history, but so was his family members before him. We learned a lot about that from her.”
Lewis Latimer was one of the first recognized African American inventors in the U.S. and helped Thomas Edison draw up plans for the light bulb. He also worked for a number of other inventors, including Alexander Graham Bell. His family lived in Chelsea during and after the Civil War and served as a crucial piece in the Underground Railroad.
George Latimer was an escaped slave from Virginia who settled in Chelsea and was part of an historic case in the state – a case that set the precedent for escaped slaves in Massachusetts being free men as long as they paid their former masters.
All of that, including new information dug up by the Robinsons and Historian George Ostler about Chelsea’s “Civil War” Mayor Frank Fay, will be on display in the April show – which will likely be in the City Hall Gallery.
Leo Robinson said Fay had taken his governess, Helen Gilson, with him to the front lines to serve in the medical corps for the Union Army. The two were present at just about every major battle, including Gettysburg, Antietam, the Wilderness and Fredericksburg. He said they were notable because they made an effort to pick up wounded black soldiers and white soldiers at the same time.
“The black soldiers were being left while they were taking the white soldiers first,” said Leo. “Gilson got her own boat and started going up and down the river picking up soldiers of both colors at the same time so they could all get medical attention.”
Their travels and experiences are explained in great detail in a long-forgotten memoir by Fay – called ‘The War Papers of F.B. Fay.
Both said that they are excited to begin working on the show and hope to have it ready by April
Looking forward to this Saturday’s Chelsea Family Literacy Day Celebration at the Chelsea
Public Library are planning committee members (from left), Cate Johnston of Raising A
Reader of Massachusetts, Margo Johnson of MGH Chelsea, Sarah Gay, children’s librarian at
the Chelsea Public Library, Robert Collins, executive director of the Chelsea Public Library,
and Ronald Robinson of the Latimer Society.
More than 800 Chelsea youths are expected to attend the 8th Annual Family Literacy Day: Chelsea Reads this Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Chelsea Public Library.
Sixty-five people attended the event in its first year but it has grown steadily in stature and significance to the point where it has become of the most popular one-day attractions in Chelsea for children and families.
“It has gotten so big that we’ve had to expand it to two floors of the library,” says Library Director Robert Collins proudly.
According to CPL Children’s Librarian Sarah Gay, the goals of Family Literacy day have remained the same: to offer a variety of literacy-based activities for kids that are interactive – to have them engaged at the various tables showing them each organization has something to offer as far as literacy goes.
Margo Johnson of MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, a founding pioneer of the event and one of its chief organizers, said the list of organizations participating includes: CAPIC, Chelsea Family Network, MGH Chelsea, Chelsea Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, Raising A Reader of Massachusetts, Boston Museum of Science. A Kangaroo’s Pouch, REACH Program, BHCC Child Focus Center, Latimer Society, St. Rose School, Harvard Museum of Natural History, and Chelsea Community Connections.
“To get all these different groups to buy into the event and participate in the planning and do an activity in these busy times when everyone is so stretched – that’s what impresses me the most,” said Collins. “There is no territorialism in Chelsea. Everyone chips in. If these groups didn’t buy into it, this event would not happen. It’s teamwork.”
City Manager Jay Ash and the Chelsea School Department are fully supportive of the event. In fact, Dr. Mary Bourque, superintendent of Chelsea schools, will serve as a celebrity guest reader, joining School Department official Gerry McCue, Chelsea Cable TV Executive Director Robert Bradley, Police Chief Brian Kyes, Officer Sammy Mojica, Sgt. David Flibotte, Centro Latino Executive Director Juan Vega, former School Committee member Elizabeth McBride, State Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, and State Sen. Sal DiDomenico in that capacity.
Volunteers from the Chelsea High Interact Club, led by teacher Ilana Ascher, and the CHS National Honor Society will assist at the event.
Children of all ages can expect a fun-filled extravaganza of reading, interactive tables, arts and crafts, and appearances by television and movie characters such as Shrek, Ernie, and Burt.
“We try to encourage guests to visit all the sites that are here on Literacy Day,” said Ron Robinson, executive director of the Latimer Society.
The pais-de-resistance on Literacy Day is that each child will receive a bag full of new books, a generous gesture by the organizing committee that is greatly appreciated by the parents especially.
Why has Family Literacy Day become such an important educational event in this city?
“I’ve always felt that in this diverse community it’s vital to stress the importance of literacy and the joy of reading books,” said Robinson.
“We saw the need to educate all our children about what a great institution the Chelsea Public Library is in our city and the increase in circulation and the number of library cards that are being issues affirms that Family Literacy Day has had a lot do with increasing the popularity of our library,” said Johnson. “But most importantly Family Literacy Day is Fun.”
Johnson said this year’s Family Literacy Day is being dedicated in memory of Liz Atkins, a lover of books and reading who passed away at the age of 23 in 2007. Johnson’s honors Atkins’s memory with her portable book store and other community events in which Margo gives away books with Liz’s label attached to each one.