John Reed was a fierce human and civil rights advocate who worked collaboratively with community leaders and legislators for a half century to identify and address the problems and needs of people of color and the underserved on Cape Cod. He bucked the system of oppression and discrimination to advocate for others of all races.
He was an educator, mentor, community leader, trailblazer and inspiration to countless students. He had been a leader in the Cape Cod NAACP branch for 25 years, where he served as President until recently. John was originally from Boston MA and relocated to Cape Cod in 1973. He taught US history, African American History, social studies and served as the attendance and equity officer at Barnstable High School from 1973 to 2015. Many students and other members of the community have attributed their success and high achievements to John’s encouragement and guidance and often referring to him as their “second dad”. He encouraged and assisted Debra Dagwan, the first black woman elected to Barnstable Town council and State Representative Kip Diggs, the first black man from Cape Cod elected as state representative to run for office.
John served the Cape Cod community for the past 49 years in many capacities including Chair of the Barnstable County Human Rights Commission; Vice President of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP; Treasurer of the Yarmouth Housing Authority; President and a board member for the Barnstable Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the National Education Association. He also presided as Executive Director of the Zion Union Heritage Museum in Hyannis where he used his teaching skills to host exhibits and educational programs about the history of people of color and new immigrants on Cape Cod. He also collected clothes for students, delivered turkeys during the holidays, raised scholarship money and conducted workshops on gang violence all over the Northeast.
He was the recipient of numerous awards including the National Education Association’s Harper Councill Trenholm Memorial Award presented for “advancing the cause of equal opportunity, improving relationships between diverse groups and expanding education opportunities for minority students and educators”; community leadership awards from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and the Town of Barnstable Town Council. In 1992, the Barnstable Town Council proclaimed July 18 “John Reed Day” and urged citizens to follow Reed’s example by spending the day volunteering. In 2021, John received BCHRC’s Rosenthal Community Champion Award which is given to an individual in the public sector who has fostered and supported human rights, concepts, and ideals.
John was one of the first supporters of AmplifyPOC as he believed the organization was fulfilling a long standing need. When he was first elected president of the Cape Cod Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1991, he said “racist sentiments colored Cape Cod real estate”. He’s also said “We have tried to grow the community … to raise generations of young people to get to the places where we can’t go but economic opportunity is the biggest problem facing minorities and other year-round residents of Cape Cod”. He contended that the number of high paying permanent jobs are limited and sparse for people of color including undocumented immigrants. Many are underpaid. “Ask the minority population how they feel,” he said. “There is not a chicken in every pot.”
John said that he did all he did because “community service is worth it.” He said, “I’ve reached out and touched people”. “I hope that’s what I’ve done.”
Thank you John, for the many contributions you’ve made to make Cape Cod a kinder, more equitable place for all!