The BRIDGE board condemns the hate crime that our local partners, Macedonia Baptist Church, experienced this weekend. We send our love and support to the Black women, elders, and families all impacted by this hateful act. We stand in solidarity with the congregation, its leadership, and the local Black and Jewish communities, as BRIDGE works to support and coordinate responsible actions that center on the safety of Black people. We want to acknowledge the varying degrees of impact of erasure and carelessness at play from news media not identifying that the antisemtic graffiti was written on a Black church, in a neighborhood in Great Barrington that continues to be gentrified, and not making the efforts to speak to the church leaders before reporting identifying information alongside the incident.
At the close of a week where Breonna Taylor’s family received no justice, we continue to witness immense anti-Black violence and a lack of accountability and regard for the lives, safety, and well-being of Black people, nationally and locally. Berkshire County is responsible for the fact that we have created and maintained a community in which Black people are not experiencing safety. In Great Barrington, numerous incidents of hate and discrimination have occured just in the last few years, and people continue to experience anti-Blackness and the muting of Black history, voices and experiences. What is required of our community in this moment is that we LISTEN to Black youth, elders, and leaders about their experiences of white supremacy living here and take concrete daily action towards creating safety and equity. Please watch the recent PBS NewsHour segment and listen to and sit with what Black individuals and leaders in our community share about the impacts of anti-Black racism in the Berkshires and the experiences of living here.
BRIDGE, as an organization designated by the Commonwealth as minority and women run in the Directors (led by a Black and immigrant staff alongside a Black woman CEO, Gwendolyn VanSant) has been organizing our community around racial justice for over a decade, providing support to marginalized communities and transforming the realities and structures that keep people marginalized. BRIDGE and the Great Barrington community have organized to pass the Trust Policy, create a Du Bois Legacy festival, and most recently, supported and catalyzed community efforts to rename the middle school after W.E.B. Du Bois. Often it is these efforts that white community members lift up to show “progressiveness” as a town, while simultaneously our Black residents and visitors experience racist violence and a lack of safety on a daily basis. The work of ending white supremacy in this community must be every day, all day, by all those who benefit from it. That work must hold the safety and well-being of Black people as absolutely paramount.
BRIDGE has been working alongside and advocating for our partners at Macedonia Baptist Church and the surrounding community throughout this time, as we have in other incidents of hate in our community. We are moving intentionally, listening to and prioritizing the safety of the impacted communities. BRIDGE is calling for everyone in our community, individuals, organizations, and businesses to take the pledge and commit to being active positive bystanders with a visible presence and a commitment to collaborate and use your voice and influence to stop hate and disrupt violence of all kinds. We ask that you move as an antiracist, considering the five A’s our CEO and founder has laid out as a framework. This means Acknowledging the reality of what is happening to Black and Brown people in America, Align with historically marginalized communities, Amplify BIPOC voices, especially Black women and the efforts of Black organizers, Ask people and communities what they need, and Activate your power and privilege for justice and to shift resources to BIPOC communities.
As a town and BRIDGE’s hometown, Great Barrington has committed to ending racism and honoring the legacy of W.E.B Du Bois, whose work laid the foundation for the Black Lives Matter movement. BRIDGE has been working alongside our Race Task Force partners in DA and United States Attorney office. We also have worked with the town in their role in making this community more safe and it is important in our roles to support the town by holding them accountable to their recent direct statements by way of Police Chief and most recently the Selectboard Chair at the town meeting. The values that Du Bois fought for - racial equality, progressive education, economic justice, and civil rights - must be upheld and lived into. Great Barrington made this commitment in 2017 when we voted by an overwhelming margin to adopt the Great Barrington Trust Policy, which states "Great Barrington will continue to ensure civil liberties of all and enforce protection from discrimination for all residents regardless of their race, skin color, [and] national or ethnic origin." We are ALL responsible for keeping each other safe. Trust and safety require listening to and learning from each other at all times.
Additionally, BRIDGE is calling for Reparations in collaboration alongside the church leaders with deep historical roots in the Church and African American community. To repair the harm to Macedonia Baptist Church, we echo the ask from Macedonia's leaders for funding for cameras, motion sensor lights, sensitivity training for law enforcement officials and just acts of kindness and acknowledgment of harm in letters for the congregation. You can mail checks to BRIDGE made out to Macedonia Baptist Church or make contributions to Macedonia Baptist Church on our PayPal Link by noting in the memo that the donation is for Macedonia Baptist Church. To repair the broader harm, we are calling on everyone to take daily action in your family, workplace, school, and at every other table you sit at to make this town and community a place where racism and racist violence does not exist and Black people feel safe raising their children and living their lives in peace.
The BRIDGE Board
Ari Cameron, Gabriela Cruz, Christina Daignault, Dr. Lara Setti, Veronica Fenton, Esq, Steve Glick, Rev. Sloan T. Letman IV , Mary Ann Norris and Gwendolyn VanSant (2020.)