We, the BRIDGE Board, stand in unequivocal support of Black Lives Matter and the uprisings around the world against police brutality. We are inspired by the multi-year, intergenerational Black organizing of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and we stand in solidarity with Black people and communities in demanding full accountability, safety, health and justice everywhere.
George Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident--it is the result of hundreds of years of state-sanctioned violence and the normalization of white supremacy. We lift up not only the life and humanity of George Floyd but Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many Black and Indigenous people who have been taken by police. We also want to honor the many Black Trans and Gender Non-conforming people who have been harmed and killed, whose names do not make national news. Saying their names is not enough. We need to understand the daily interactions, systems, and policies that continue the war on Black people.
In the case of George Floyd, and so many others, racism followed him from the moment he left his home. Anti-Black bias harassed him at the counter accusing him of counterfeit cash. White supremacy called a racist officer to the scene to ultimately steal his life from him and his family. These instances of anti-Black violence are an experience that African Americans know all too well, in Berkshire County and across the country.
Before leaving the house, African Americans ask themselves, will I come back home today? Siblings wonder about their brothers and sisters and parents ask these questions about their children. African Americans routinely ask, am I wearing the “right” clothes this morning, or will my hoodie get me killed?
White folks have created and maintained this reality of oppression, violence and exploitation for centuries. For the future of our communities, our country--our planet--this cycle must end.
As an anti-racist organization, BRIDGE is committed to lifting up the voices, stories, and work of Black and brown people locally and nationally. BRIDGE lives its core values by employing people of color and paying a living wage. We reflect our minority and women-run status through our staff and board makeup. Our programs operate from the acknowledgement and affirmation that Black and brown communities are sites of wisdom, power, resilience and joy. We offer community spaces, resources, advocacy, training, coaching, and most recently (in the context of COVID-19) sustainable food access and supplies deliveries to our constituents, 90% of whom are Black and brown families. BRIDGE is also committed to catalyzing courageously authentic conversations about our behaviors, systems, and history, and how we must change. Our BRIDGE CEO and founder, Gwendolyn VanSant, has participated in many interviews, conversations, and dialogues in response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings in the last few weeks. We want to highlight an interview from June 10th, with Josh Landes on WAMC on Implementing Structural Change.
As a board, we are a multiracial, multigenerational group of individuals holding different identities. Regardless of our identity, we recognize that as representatives of BRIDGE, we as board members are called to lean into our training, values, and commitments, and to stand loudly and proudly as anti-racist individuals in our Berkshire community, and in all the spaces we occupy and relationships we hold. We acknowledge that we have not always done so, and that we have often relied on Gwendolyn’s leadership, vision, and labor as a cover for our silence. For those of us who are white, it is ongoing and daily practice to disrupt white supremacy in ourselves and other white people and institutions. Socialized in a white supremacist society, we must work to constantly disrupt anti-Blackness in ourselves, first.
We need to be asking ourselves and each other, more frequently and explicitly: What does it actually look like to lift up and follow Black women’s leadership? How do we show up in ways that are honest and authentic in the face of harm that we’ve caused or been complicit in? How do we practice accountability to BRIDGE staff, constituents, and community members of color? How have we failed to show up, and what is the impact?
As a board, we commit ourselves to the following actions to disrupt and dismantle white supremacy culture within BRIDGE, so that we can authentically support this organization in leading and catalyzing powerful and needed change in our community:
We acknowledge that these steps are long overdue. We wish to name and honor that the organizing and leadership of Black Lives Matter in response to the murders of George Floyd and so many others has pushed us to go deeper and take a hard look at how we think, communicate, behave, and show up in the world in support of Black Liberation.
Ari Cameron, (Co-chair), AJ Enchill, Jr. (Co-chair), Rev. Sloan Letman IV (Vice Chair),
Steve Glick (Treasurer), Veronica Fenton (Secretary), Chirstina Daignault, MSW,
Mary Ann Norris, Lara Setti, MD and Gwendolyn Hampton-VanSant
I appreciate the outreach and support pouring out to BRIDGE’s effort and we wanted to offer a few invitations and resources that we have put together to guide action right now, many resources to dig deeper and listen and to offer a few places to plug in directly with BRIDGE.
"The problem is that white people see racism as a conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on behalf of whites at other people's expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes Black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up everytime we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard to work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything. ~Scott Woods
First, here's a few resources:
Watch and share these Facebook live videos under the titles "Centering Blackness & Dismantling Whiteness":
In terms of places to plug in, I'd recommend the following:
Coming up Soon!
BRIDGE Race Amity Day Agenda (via ZOOM)
9:00 AM Opening: Introduction to Race Amity Day and Juneteenth
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Anti-Racism Chat on Accountability led by Accountability Team at BRIDGE
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM Community Dialogue: Aligning Jewish Community with Black Lives Uprising: Rabbi Neil Hirsch, Dr. Christopher MacDonald Dennis (invited) and Gwendolyn VanSant
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Anti-Racism Chat: Dr. Leticia Haynes & Gwendolyn VanSant: What do we as a Black community need in this time?
2:30 - 4:00 PM BIO Processional March : Together We Breathe! In Pittsfield, MA - As a part of the day we will join our partners at BIO for a “Together We Breathe” processional with the local police. The schedule is as follows:
4:00- 7:00 PM Race Amity Day 2020 -
Tune in! 4-5 PM for opening and then thought leader presentations discussions after: https://raceamity.org/rad2020/; Donations go to the Navajo Nation. Reflection: how many indigenous lives can you name that have been taken by police brutality?
8:00 PM “Tapping In with BRIDGE” to close out Race Amity Day - CARE Action Lab: What are we looking for? What are we fighting for? What are the outcomes we seek to build a collective humanity where we ALL can thrive - not just survive.
~Your BRIDGE Accountability Team with Gwendolyn
“Act now, because people are dying now in this unjust system. How many lives have been ground up by racial prejudice and hate? How many opportunities have we already lost? Act and talk and learn and fuck up and learn some more and act again and do better. We have to do this all at once. We have to learn and fight at the same time. Because people have been waiting far too long for their chance to live as equals in this society.” ― Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race