Professor Sara Bleich will command the pulpit at Union Chapel this Sunday of Independence Day weekend. She has stepped into history after being tapped as the inaugural vice provost for special projects by outgoing Harvard University president Larry Bacow to oversee the implementation of Harvard’s Legacy of Slavery initiative. Harvard ‘s extensive study on its relationship and nexus to slavery uncovered some remarkable details.

This presidential committee on Harvard and the legacy of slavery found that the university affiliates enslaved more than 70 Black and indigenous people across almost 150 years and had “extensive financial ties” to slavery.

Harvard University has pledged to allocate $100 million dollars to implement the many recommendations in the report. Ms. Bleich will work with Harvard affiliates, descendants of enslaved individuals and the broader public to engage with the history and legacy of slavery on the university campus.

Given her new assignment, the pending Supreme Court case on using racial identity as a factor in the college admissions process and challenges to free speech on campus all portend for a very interesting address. The transition from Juneteenth independence to July 4 independence is stark.

The Extraordinary Life of Dorothy West: From 'the Kid‘ to Miss West exhibit at Martha’s Vineyard Museum, curated by Anna Barber, opened over Memorial Day weekend. It is a tribute to our Vineyard icon.

I have often marveled that Dorothy West has been part of the Vineyard’s lived experience since she was born in 1907. Her father Issac was born into slavery, freed at age seven, became an entrepreneur shortly thereafter and made his way from Richmond, Va. to Boston. He developed a very successful wholesale produce and fruit business that enabled him to own property in Oak Bluffs before Dorothy was born. After living in New York and traveling to Russia, France and other parts of the world, Dorothy settled year-round on the Vineyard in 1948.

The exhibit features excerpts from the documentary As I Remember It: A Portrait of Dorothy West, directed by Salem Mekuria. But what puts the visitor in the time and place of the creative genius of Ms. West as a writer is her much-renowned desk and typewriter. You will find the typewriter encased in glass and on a pedestal in the center of the exhibit hall. The creativity of many writers is highly correlated with a porch, a cabin or cottage, like that of James Weldon Johnson or, in Henry David Thoreau’s case, a simple Hepplewhite-style desk made of painted pine.

Ms. West began writing short stories for a variety of local Boston and national publications in her youth. In 1926 her short story The Typewriter won her second prize shared with the more established Zora Neale Hurston. The contest was sponsored by the New York Urban League’s Opportunity Magazine and the prize brought her to New York, where she eventually became part of a significant cohort of writers, poets, artists, musicians and intellectuals who became friends, colleagues and were the heartbeat of the Harlem Renaissance.

As Issac and Rachel West gave birth to Dorothy in 1907. Alain Locke, best known as the creator of the philosophical concept The New Negro (1925) that launched the Harlem Renaissance, was graduating from Harvard College. Mr. Locke was determined to transform the thinking of Black Americans of the 1920s about who they were and what they could become within their own gifts and talents. His transformative book ushered in a new generational thinking of self-determination and independent artistic expression for the direction of Black America in the 21st century.

Alain Locke leveraged his credentials as the first Black Rhodes scholar in American history and the second Black Ph.D at Harvard to serve as an intermediary, mentor and confidant for many artists, securing for them the financial patronage they needed to be creatively free.

Dorothy West and Alain Locke are intellectual kin and share the Harlem Renaissance but also they share synchronous adulation and praise this June in an unpredictable and unforeseen manner, Ms. West at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and Mr. Locke at the upcoming Rhodes Scholars reunion taking place at Oxford University this weekend. On Thursday, June 29 a panel session titled Celebrating Alain Lock (Pennsylvania and Hertford 1907) will be held at Oxford,

Perhaps equally as improbable is that I would be writing the Gazette’s Oak Bluffs column — which Dorothy West started in 1948 — and that I would be in Amsterdam today en route to the Rhodes reunion to attend the panel discussion celebrating the life of Alain Locke. I became the first Rhodes Scholar in the history of Boston University in 1971 (Massachusetts and Wadham 1971). I will be attending the reunion with my family, joining my friends and classmates who walked in the path of Alain Locke just more than 50 years ago.

Spanning Ms. West and Mr. Locke is a sacred honor, responsibility and privilege. Their roles in the Harlem Renaissance and on Martha’s Vineyard have provided an immovable foundation of history and an intellectual trampoline that catapulted the bounce of Black America and the nation.

Paradise on earth is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting. Randall Edward Taylor, may you rest in peace.