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Springfield City Hall Ceremony Celebrates Black History

A large group holds the Black American Heritage Flag

     An annual Black American heritage ceremony in the largest city in western Massachusetts honored two men recently promoted to public safety command positions – both historic firsts.

    The 34th annual Springfield City Hall observance that kicks off Black History Month included speeches, music, and special presentations recognizing Rupert Daniel, the first Black Deputy Chief in the history of the Springfield Police Department, and Tyrone Denson, the first Black person to be promoted to District Chief in the city’s fire department.

    Both men said they hoped their accomplishments would be an inspiration for others to follow.

    Daniel said his promotion to Deputy Chief, which happened last October, shows the Police Department is committed to diversity at the highest levels.

   "I think of all the guys that went before me and it is very humbling because there have been some real talented minorities on the job before I got here," said Daniel. " To be the first one to make it to this level is very humbling."

    Since he first joined the Springfield Police Department 36-years ago, Daniel said he has devoted his off-duty hours to youth recreation programs where he strives to be a role model.

   " Being a foster kid, I am showing them that no matter how you are brought up if you put the time into it, you can make any kind of position you want," said Daniel.

   Denson joined the Springfield Fire Department 23 years ago because he said he wanted to help people.

   " They were encouraging minorities to apply and once the door opened to get into this department, I knew I would be driven to be the best firefighter I could be," said Denson.

   After 10 years as a firefighter he started taking promotional exams and worked his way up the ranks. He became a district chief last month.

"It is an honor and a privalege and I give thanks to God for putting me in this position to be an example for others in the city," said Denson.

  State Representative Bud Williams presented citations to Daniel and Denson in front of the large audience in City Hall.

" It is kind of mixed emotions to say it is a first in 2020, but we are making progress," said Williams "It is difficult."

Also honored was Daniel Brightwell. He owns an insurance agency that has been in business for 50 years in the historically Black Mason Square neighborhood.

  This year’s ceremony included performances by choruses from Educare Springfield Head Start and the Freedman Elementary School.

  The keynote speaker, Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the NAACP Springfield branch, spoke about the long, often violent, struggle by Blacks for civil rights.

  " We have to ask ourselves 'What am I doing in order to bring about a yes we can attitude?'," Swan asked the audience. "What am I doing to ensure the young people in my neighborhood are empowered?"

  To conclude the ceremony, the Black American Heritage flag was raised over the esplanade outside City Hall.



The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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