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Judge Geraldine S. Hines
Geraldine S. Hines, Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, will share her experiences as a black civil rights lawyer and jurist on February 13.
Dr. Kwasi Connor
Marine biologist and science educator Dr. Ksawi Connor will speak about his research on mussels on February 19.
Todd Beckham
Genealogist, musician and producer Todd Beckham will talk about the Melungeons of Vardy Valley, Tennessee, on February 27. The annual harambee will follow.
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January 31, 2014
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Woods Hole Black History Month 2014 Activities Focus on Theme of Civil Rights in America

"Civil Rights in America", marking the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is the theme for 2014 Black History Month activities in Woods Hole, which begin February 13 and conclude February 27.  All events are free and open to the public and will be held at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole.
On Thursday, February 13, Geraldine Hines, Massachusetts Associate Justice, will present “Lessons from My Life as a Black Civil Rights Lawyer and Jurist” at 12:00 p.m. in Lillie Auditorium at MBL.

Appointed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court as an Associate Justice by Governor Deval Patrick in 2013, Geraldine S. Hines is the first African-American woman to serve on that court. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she practiced law for 30 years in Boston, concentrating on criminal defense, civil rights litigation and social justice advocacy. She also taught trial advocacy at Northeastern University School of Law as an adjunct faculty member from 1980 to 2001. 

Geraldine S. Hines was born in Scott, Mississippi and grew up in the Mississippi Delta. She graduated from Tougaloo College in 1968 and the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. Upon graduation she became a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, engaging in prisoner’s rights litigation. She practiced criminal law with the Roxbury Defender’s Committee, and litigated civil rights cases relating to discrimination in education as a staff attorney at the Harvard University Center for Law and Education before entering private practice in 1982. 

A founding partner in New England’s first law firm of women of color, Geraldine Hines began her judicial career in 2001 as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. She also served as regional administrative judge for civil business in Suffolk County from 2009 to 2013. Hines has been active in many civic and community organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild and Lawyers Against Apartheid, and has observed elections and investigated human rights abuses in both Africa and the Middle East.

Marine biologist Kwasi Connor will discuss “Life in a Fluctuating Environment: The Molecular Eco-Physiology of California Mussels” on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at noon in the Meigs Room at MBL’s Swope Center.  Originally from New York City, Connor attended Pasadena High School in California and graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. in accounting, After a few years on the job, he soon realized his passion was not balance sheets and corporate earnings reports but marine biology.  A teaching credential in biology soon led to a M.S. in biology from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in marine biology and biological oceanography from the University of Southern California.  He currently works in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine as a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow.

“After receiving my teaching credential in biology, I still remained passionate about teaching young people, however I had a strong desire to design scientific studies and perform experiments,” he notes. “I felt that a Ph.D. would allow me to not only positively influence students but also be involved in research activities as well.”  He began a love affair of sorts with mollusks, especially mussels.

Connor found that mussels – which spend their entire lives in dark shells in areas between land and sea, submerged or exposed depending on the cycle of the tide - are in part dependent upon the 24-hour day, which is also known as the circadian cycle. While it is well known that land animals follow a circadian cycle, Connor and his colleagues found it surprising that gene expression in an intertidal marine organ also followed a circadian pattern. 
“The Melungeons of Vardy Valley: Tri-racial Isolates and Their 21st Century Ancestors” is the focus of the February 27 presentation by Todd Beckham, a genealogist, musician and producer who is currently organist-choirmaster at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Falmouth.  His presentation will begin at 3:00 p.m. in the Meigs Room, Swope Center, at the MBL.

Beckham works as a conductor, organist, teacher and singer in the Cape Cod and Boston area. In addition to his duties at St. Barnabas, he is currently a harpsichord tutor for Mather House at Harvard University and Artistic Director/Conductor for the MIT-based Meridian Singers, an early music a capella choir.

Born in Ft. Myers, Florida, Beckham has ancestors who came from the mountains of western Maryland, northern West Virginia, Orange County, Virginia, and the coastal plain of North Carolina.  A genealogist researcher whose main focus has been on the descendents of John Collins of Bertie County, Beckham is also a producer of a film by Wicked Delicate Productions on the tri-racial isolate inhabitants of the Vardy Valley in Hancock County, Tennessee titled “Melungeons”. The film premiered in April 2013 at the Nashville Film Festival, and was the closing event at the 2013 conference on the Melungeon Heritage Association.

The hour-long presentation will include a discussion about who Melungeons were and their ancestors place in the 21st century, and a discussion on DNA testing that asks the question: Why were the Melungeons so surprised they have African ancestry?

Todd Beckham’s presentation will be followed by Harambee, an annual ethnic potluck feast celebrating everyone of every race. Multicultural arts, food and live music will take place from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. at MBL’s Swope Center.

Woods Hole Black History Month events are sponsored by the Marine Biological Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center), U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Field Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole Research Center, and Sea Education Association.

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