Springfield Alumnae to host Red Carpet with renowned author


Submitted by Theresa V. Bryant

During many African-American funerals, ashes to ashes are some of the final words delivered as the officiator sprinkles dirt over the casket lowered into the ground.  It was the absence of those words that led Dr. Shirley Jackson Whittaker on a mission to honor and mourn the lives of African Americans who were brutalized and lynched.  Dr. Whittaker, an Ida B. Wells of her time, sought to shed a light on the history of lynching in this country, giving the many loss souls, the burial they deserve in a memorial dubbed “Ashes to Ashes.”   According to Dr. Whittaker, she hoped the service would allow Americans to acknowledge their history in an effort to heal after 401 years of terrorism.

Dr. Shirley Whitaker thought it not robbery to give the more than 4000 African Americans that were lynched in this country their proper burial.   “Ashes to Ashes” a two-day service in April 2016 was the first-ever funeral service for those who had been lynched.  On April 30, 2016, a carriage led by Clydesdale horses holding, an unmarked coffin trotting to St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.  St. John’s, so fitting a venue, is one of the oldest black churches in New England and once counted John Brown as its member. Springfield became a major stop on the Underground Railroad and St. John’s hosted lectures by Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas.

Dr. Whitaker’s vision materialized.  “Ashes to Ashes” has received many accolades, including being considered for an Academy Award for short documentary in 2021.  According to her website, “Ashes to Ashes, the film directed by Taylor Rees, centered around the funeral service for lynched African Americans by Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker, with the life pain of Mr. Winfred Rembert, a survivor of a lynching attempt, has won the River Run International film festival and is now one of 30 top documentary shorts in the world. Dr. Whitaker’s book of the “Ashes to Ashes event is now among the rare book collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the Getty Museum, Boston Athenaeum, Columbia University and several other colleges and universities.

On Jan. 7, 2021 Dr. Whittaker, along with Winfred Rembert and the film’s director Taylor Reese joined a discussion with the Commonwealth Club of California, “Ashes to Ashes:  Two Artist Addressing Racial Injustice in America.”  “Ashes to Ashes” was featured in the New Yorker on Jan. 13, 2021 in Life After Lynching In “Ashes to Ashes” written by Rachel Riederer. On Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, The Museum of Tolerance hosted a special watch party and Q&A moderated by film director, screen writer and producer, Barry Jenkins.

Springfield Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (SAC) is presenting a virtual red-carpet affair showcasing “Ashes to Ashes” on Feb. 28, 2021 followed by a Q &A segment with Dr. Shirley Whittaker and Mr. Winfred Rembert.    

Dr. Whitaker is a nephrologist living in Amherst, MA with her family and is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


Submitted by Theresa V. Bryant During many African-American funerals, ashes to ashes are some of the final words delivered as the officiator sprinkles dirt over the casket lowered into the ground.  It was the absence of those words that led Dr. Shirley Jackson Whittaker on a mission to honor and mourn the lives of African …

Springfield Alumnae to host Red Carpet with renowned author Read More »