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Bridge work: Organizations Co-founder dicusses diversity and changing demographics

posted Jan 20, 2012, 6:39 AM by Jv Hampton-VanSant   [ updated Jan 21, 2012, 5:41 PM by Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant ]
Excerpt Taken from: Berkshire Trade and Commerce 
February 2012
by John Townes
For the full interview contact the BT&C Business Journal or Multicultural BRIDGE

The population of Berkshire County is becoming more diverse,
with an influx of immigrants from abroad joining American born
residents from a range of ethnic backgrounds. As this demographic
trend has taken shape, an organization known as Multicultural BRIDGE has been working since 2007 to integrate cultural variations into the fabric of the region.
According to its mission statement, the purpose of Multicultural BRIDGE is to “promote mutual understanding
and acceptance among diverse groups, serving as a resource to both
local institutions and the community at large. We serve as catalysts for change through collaboration, education, training, dialogue,  fellowship and advocacy.” Multicultural BRIDGE (Berkshire Resources for the Integration of Diverse Groups and Education), which is based in Housatonic, conducts trainings, workshops and other programs,
intended to advance these goals. In conjunction with Martin Luther
King Jr. Day (Jan. 16), Black History Month in February and the Feb. 23
birthday of W.E.B. Du Bois, BRIDGE is sponsoring free showings of the
three-part documentary film series “Race: The Power of an Illusion” and
related live community discussions at various locations around the county. The documentary challenges biological assumptions about race and  explores the deeper cultural beliefs and myths about racial differences. There will be three weekly showings of the
series in northern, central and southern Berkshire County. These include the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 16, 23 and 30; at the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington at 11 a.m. on Feb. 12, 19 and 26; and at Images Cinema in Williamstown at 5:15 p.m. on Feb. 28, March 6 and 13. The showings will be followed by discussions led by the Multicultural BRIDGE Race Task Force with guest speakers. Tickets are free but RSVPs are requested. Complete information is available online at

In the following interview, cofounder and executive director Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant discusses the role of Multicultural BRIDGE and the county’s changing demographics.  

“Berkshire County is not losing anything, but instead is gaining something as the population becomes more diverse and multicultural.”
– Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant
Berkshire Trade & Commerce:
What is Multicultural BRIDGE? What does the organization do?
Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant:  The organization was founded by myself and Marthe Bourdon in 2007. Bob Norris was one of our earliest supporters and donors. I sometimes describe us as the Three Musketeers in the founding of BRIDGE.  The name BRIDGE is based on the concept of providing a bridge between the people who are falling through the cracks and the institutions that are supposed to serve everyone in a diverse population. The goal is to increase understanding and awareness of diversity and a willingness to engage with it both on the personal and institutional levels. 

Please pick up a February issue to read the entire interview with John Townes. 
Photo taken by Brad Johnson. Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant and Rachel I. Branch, co-hosts of Multicultural BRIDGE's Community Access Television program, Connections: Embracing Diversity, Empowering Community
Jv Hampton-VanSant,
Jan 20, 2012, 6:48 AM