You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won."
Dear BRIDGE community:
We just had a fantastic time with 11th annual Happiness Toolbox Program in a hybrid model of pre-recorded, interactive Zoom and five socially distanced excursions. Thank you to our youth leaders for mentoring, teaching and coordinating alongside the BRIDGE staff! Teamwork! Thanks to our BRIDGE educators and our friends far and near—we had lessons in bookmaking, clowning with DRIVE forward, Character Strengths, Beekeeping, Coding, Sewing, Drawing, Barn Sessions with Solstice, HANDLE, Mindfulness & Growth Mindset, Music with Jim and Otha and Berkshire Art and Cultural History. Our field trips were to Chesterwood, BNRC Thomas and Palmer Brook Reserve and Gideons Garden at Taft Farms and Woven Roots Farm! Enjoy some of the photos here!
Thank you to our 2020 sponsors, Lennox Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and Grace Church (thanks to Rena Zurovsky for Chesterwood books for HT students.) The abundant joy and connection among the participants and educators was unforgettable!
Learn more about our pedadogy behind Happiness Toolbox here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-J903ic8AE&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3cFKnoSj7XPU560mSPoLZbzHAA5Gb-hu360l9Jz-auOLOP-arUG4-fxWs
Enjoy some of the virtual Happiness Toolbox lessons here. Scroll through the pages of lessons to revisit with young ones in your life! You can start here: https://www.multiculturalbridge.org/happiness-toolbox-sessions/ht2020-drive-forward-productions-on-bravery-and-creativity
-- Keep an eye out on this page as we learn from some of our youth participants about Science, Cooking and more with more posts!
Also, we want you to know that this weekend Big Elm Brewery launched a new Chocolate Coffee Stout as a part of the national Black is Beautiful Campaign and the proceeds come directly to BRIDGE! These funds support our Towards Racial Justice and Equity Programs & Campaigns in the Berkshires and our Food Sovereignty and Solidarity program feeding 90+ families weekly for 24 weeks! Read more about the Food Sovereignty Program in September issue of Berkshire Trade and Commerce. Read here: http://www.btaconline.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/September-2020-BTAC.pdf
"We must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity, and power in our society.” – NELSON MANDELA
Tomorrow Aug. 31st at 8:30 AM, in partnership with Central Berkshire Regional School District, we welcome Dr. Beverly Tatum to the Berkshires for a New Pathways Lab! Be sure you register on zoom or we will broadcast on Facebook Live! We already have over 175 participants to benefit from Dr. Tatum’s wisdom on Racial Identity Development and Education as we re-enter this school year in a time of reflection on the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter uprising, and the need for social emotional support of ALL students facing the race crisis of the 21st century. We are looking forward to the discussions, strategy development and also the book study with Dr. Tatum. Thank you to Williams College Davis Center, Berkshire Money Management and Berkshire United Way and North Adams Public Schools via Stacey Parsons for joining CBRSD and BRIDGE as co-sponsors.
Looking ahead in September, BRIDGE has accepted the honor of receiving 1 of 3 of MCLA’s 125th anniversary Presidential medallions in recognition of our decade of partnership with MCLA Thomas Alexander and Campus Conversations on Race, hosting interns, stewarding Greylock Teach Fellows partnership among Pittsfield Public Schools, Greylock Federal Credit Union and BRIDGE and benefitting from the expertise of the MCLA staff and faculty serving on the BRIDGE board and staff ( thank you Dr. Ingrid Castro, Dr. Frances Jones Sneed and Dr. Emily Williams.) We are grateful to have a recent alumna, Don’Jea Smith, on our team right now who was former chair of the Black Student Union at MCLA and a student activist herself. We hosted interns through CCoR in Race Dialogues with Race: the Power of an Illusion and Not in Our County Campaigns!. We have provided training for MCLAs Departments of Admissions, Financial Aid and provided coaching and education for MCLA Faculty. Most recently we provided training for MCLA students with WAM Theatre on Microaggressions in Education. Most relevant is the partnership on the Equity and Inclusion Conference of 2019 with Dr. Williams and launch of the Arts and Humanities Institute with Dr. Lisa Donavan also in 2019.
Please join us for the event on September 29th at 4 PM as MCLA renews its commitment to justice and equity and striving for excellence, safety and thriving for all in education.
On September 3 at 6 PM please come to discuss and vote on the renaming of the middle school of Berkshire Hills Regional School District after Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois! BRIDGE activist and allies have been supporting Great Barrington’s efforts to honor Du Bois’ Legacy and are thrilled after our 2019 campaign that we have full school committee and Selectboard endorsements as well as the support for this important forum from all voting residents of Stockbridge, West Stockbridge and Great Barrington! Learn more on interview with WAMC here: https://www.wamc.org/post/web-du-bois-legacy-committee-member-previews-vote-rename-school-after-civil-rights-icon
"The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.” – W. E. B. Du Bois
We are so happy to have Not in Our County -- Berkshire adopted by Williamstown and we now have an accountability structure to activate and engage all residents in the safety of the County! Way to Go Williamstown! Join the BRIDGE Race Task Force if you want to advance or renew these commitments to the county and national campaign for your town!
CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR FULL SEPTEMBER CALENDAR OF EVENTS
A heartfelt shoutout of gratitude to the many many volunteers that make all of this happen! Together we win the fight for justice and equity!
This has been another hard week in our country. Please take a moment of silence to review your stop hate pledge and commitment.
Take a deep look at where you can intervene on a personal, family, community and workplace level to disrupt violence, ambivalence, hatred and ignorance at its roots. Do it in the honor of Mr. Jacob Blake and his children. Join me to send up prayers for his family and the many terrorized by the legacy of race and racism in this country. We must collectively stomp out ignorance and fear.
Make sure your Vote counts this week—and straight in to November!
At BRIDGE, we will continue to fight as we have for 13 years without stop but as a staff complete and full with intersecting identities as Black, gender diverse and immigrant folks, we feel this pain intensely. First and foremost, we are committed, principled and yes (!) we are exhausted. Despite that, we show up with energy, love, optimism, hope and generosity each day! Please join us in the fight for safety and justice! We all deserve an abundance of being valued, being safe and being heard. And it requires steadfast commitment, unrest and discomfort until change happens! All of our families deserve to thrive in generational health and all of our aspirations. How will you engage in the struggle together towards equity and peace?
"Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet." ― John Lewis on political change & activism in Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change
Your donations are needed and welcome. We have raised and put back in the hands of Black and Brown families alongside economically vulnerable families in excess of $100,000 of funds and in- kind contributions over the last 5 months in our mutual aid network here in the Berkshires. The needs are food, medical bills, rent, school supplies, car insurance, tuition, garbage removal, technological access for work and school, etc. due to the adverse impact of COVID-19. Those dollars represent your donations that are supporting our constituents & families. We will continue to steward your support as directly as possible. So please continue to give and direct your networks to our programs. And thank you! 🤎💯❣️
Please contact us if you are interested in making sustaining pledges monthly or would like to make a designated contribution. You can write to Donations@multiculturalbridge.org or make your contribution here: https://www.multiculturalbridge.org/ways-to-give.html
In gratitude - serving justice forward,
Gwendolyn + the BRIDGE team
“You often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving.’ The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
We are so grateful to our BRIDGE community! With you all, we have accomplished amazing things as a community in these trying times. Families have felt closer and more engaged in our local community and we have found new spaces to find joy and connectedness!
We have tons of work to do still as we see and experience intolerance and encounter cultural blind spots. I ask that you stay focused on equity, safety and justice in all of your interactions. We can only be healthy if our entire community is healthy.
"There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about." – Margaret J. Wheatley
Leaders are being asked to think differently and create new pathways to an equitable future.
Please stay connected in our learning community!
Gwendolyn & the BRIDGE team
New Pathways Lab: Towards Racial Justice South: Prioritizing Black Lives in White Allyship August 6th at 6:30 PM
Newell Eaton (New Pathways Lab) and Aseante Renee join Gwendolyn VanSant for a conversation on White Allyship in the time of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Join us for probing questions and deep dialogue on how to advance racial justice in authentic relationship, care and action.
Black Community members: Join to make the asks and requests of White People in your community for racial justice and equity. Submit requests ahead or come to the New Pathways Lab for an intergroup dialogue and action planning.
White Community members: Whose Black Lives are you prioritizing, protecting and honoring? What Black Communities are you supporting? Whose Black Leadership are you amplifying?
How do white allies support Black people in the pandemic facing injustice and disparities and the threat our future holds in communities and workplaces?
When: Aug 6, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Fireside Chat - July 26th : Solidarity & Justice in the Black Lives Matter Movement : A conversation with the Jewish community
In the article "Skin in the Game", educator and advocate Eric Ward explores the relationship between racism, antisemitism, and other forms of bias and hate. If we are to be the best allies for one another, this context matters. Join with Gwendolyn VanSant and Rabbi Neil Hirsch for a conversation about this important article, continuing our community’s exploration of Black-Jewish relations.
Register in advance for this meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0sf-GqrjssG9BdE3MZDTnEq-dZwd4Pk3_1
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Happiness Toolbox (virtual program) coming soon!
We are happy to announce a hybrid program for August. Our “Happiness Toolbox” will launch with pre-recorded sessions on our website for all to access.
Special (social distancing) in-person visits in August in small groups of 10 at special outdoor Berkshire locations for some cultural history and special guest appearances.
Upon enrollment, you will receive kits, an interactive Zoom schedule and a sign up sheet for small socially distanced visits at beautiful Berkshire locations.
Watch for videos from:
Stephanie Wright, Berkshire Legends
Florence Afanokue, Leadership & Culture
Carmen Silva Baker, Character Strengths/Las Fortalezas de Carácter
Maya Richards, Yoga and Mindfulness
Lesleye Bautista, Spanish
JV & Tim, Coding
Curtis Mraz, Beekeeping
Gwendolyn VanSant, Chesterwood & Abraham Lincoln
Otha Day, Drumming
Jeanne Bassis, Play
Suzi Banks Baum, Bookmaking
Leah Abel, DRIVE Forward
Jessica Hampton, Handle & Equine Therapy Sessions
Youth Leaders return with special lessons and program support:
Soka Vanegas, Westley Hampton VanSant, Damari Taylor, Julianne Harwood & more!
"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." – Coretta Scott King
I want to thank all of the individuals and partners in our community who have supported BRIDGE in the mutual aid effort of getting supplies to families who have been underresourced over the last 20 weeks or have been especially vulnerable during this pandemic. We are also supporting communities in response to the traumatic events leading up to the Black Lives Matter Movement who have felt exponential isolation and exhaustion in this time. We are 350+ donors strong in this effort alone! We have put all of these resources back in to our community and thank you all for resourcing a healthier, safer Berkshires. Our “Soil, sun and water” program with Woven Roots is underway along with beautiful veggies delivered weekly to families from Woven Roots, Taft Farms/Gideon’s Garden, and Random Harvest. Thanks to Greenagers for installing raised beds in our BRIDGE families’ homes! Special thanks to the Janey Fund, Paul Clark, Hsu Family Fund, MaryAnn and Bob Norris, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and Berkshire Urgent Covid-19 response. Our efforts are not only for now but for the sustainable future!
Thank you also for standing for Racial Justice in Sheffield and across the County! Together we will make the change towards equity and justice ~ there is no turning back. Stay vigilant, active and disruptive!
Read here: https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/after-racist-graffiti-shatters-sheffield-protests-aim-to-help,609480
New Pathways Lab - August 31st at 8:30 AM
Dr. Beverly Tatum joins CBRSD and BRIDGE on August 31st for a fireside chat, book club and strategy session. Thank you to Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Money Management and Williams College for joining as sponsors!
Join us on Zoom for Dr. Beverly Tatum as she supports Central Berkshire School District’s Equity & Inclusion Committee in launching our Berkshire academic year.
Members of the Berkshire educational system and larger community will spend the entire morning with Dr. Tatum.
Dr. Tatum and Gwendolyn VanSant of BRIDGE will be engaged in a fireside chat. The morning session will be moderated by Aseante Renee. Then participants will break in to small groups and return for a debrief in our New Pathways Lab format.
Register in advance for this meeting:
President Emerita, Spelman College
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, is a clinical psychologist widely known for both her expertise on race relations and as a thought leader in higher education. Her thirteen years as the president of Spelman College (2002-2015) were marked by innovation and growth and her visionary leadership was recognized in 2013 with the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award. The author of several books including the best-selling “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations About Race” (now in a new 2017 20th anniversary edition) and “Can We Talk About Race?” and “Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation” (2007), Tatum is a sought-after speaker on the topics of racial identity development, race and education, strategies for creating inclusive campus environments, and higher education leadership.
Also, one more New Pathway Talk has been uploaded. Join me and Amber on a New Pathways reflection.
In case you have missed any of the New Pathways Labs, we invite you to listen to our podcast as we upload two a week.
Keep an eye out on our website for events and updates!
Stay healthy and connected!
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
Aseante Renee and Gwendolyn VanSant on the Purpose of BRIDGE’s New Pathways Action-Focused “Labs”
On Thursday May 21st, BRIDGE kicked off its New Pathways Labs series to supplement BRIDGE’s New Pathways Talks which went live earlier in the week. Gwendolyn VanSant (creator and curator of the series) and Aseante Renee (activist and clinical social worker), will moderate these community conversations May through June. Here, VanSant and Renee speak to the purpose of New Pathways Labs, how they work, and what they are looking forward to in these conversations in the upcoming weeks.
How did you each come to this work and how would you describe the purpose of New Pathways?
Gwendolyn VanSant: When COVID19 hit, many organizations decided to pull back on their equity and inclusion work, but I know that this is exactly the time to double down on it. New Pathways was born mainly out of this moment, but it was also born out of seeing and hearing the needs of community members on a grassroots level… seeing and hearing what leaders needed. I wanted to reassure leaders that, yes, they could navigate what was happening while keeping a focus on inclusion. I still want to do so.
Aseante Renee: I approach social justice work through the lens of true equity and inclusion. The way that runs through my work is that I'm trying to shift the narrative around our responses to incarceration and violence. I’m looking at new models for philanthropy and letting communities decide for themselves what they need to do with funds. I'm also big on building community networks of bartered care and cooperative economics. So I’m a social justice strategist. I joined this project because I understood the significance of that moment. There is no going back to normal! Right now we have the chance to build something new…
Often, when people are in crisis, they begin to really see what's important. When the house is on fire, what are the three things you grab as you head out, right? Right now, many organizations are choosing not to grab the DE&I suitcase. So it is important to make sure that this stays in the forefront. We can't go into the new normal without equity and inclusion. COVID has eliminated our excuses as to why we can't have more equity and [access to resources]... I also recognize that New Pathways is a BRIDGE series, which is perfect because that’s what we need to do: build bridges between different sectors, movements, campaigns, ethnicities, religions... in order to move the dial collectively as a nation. COVID-19 does not discriminate, but it is severely impacting particular communities. The only way we are going to get to our new normal (the true American dream) is when we create a new normal that is inclusive. That happens through the bridges we build, the connections, the changes in our tapestry... That’s why when I was invited to participate in this, the only possible answer was yes. New Pathways Labs are opportunities for authentic, genuine, real conversations about what's next.
I'm showing up as a moderator who is offering support and making sure that the conversation remains authentic. People are really good with words and can say all the right things: “We need...” and “We should...” I want to make sure people use active voice and focus on actions that are relevant and attainable. I’m also looking from the outside in, so I can ask questions purely from a place of genuine care and curiosity. I can say, “Help me connect the dots!” and “Help me understand.” This is how I’m staying aligned with the larger goals of this series.
What is the larger call to action or invitation with this series?
GVS: It’s short and simple. We’re inviting people to be inspired and to be held accountable to the work that needs to get done. I've also been talking with people about showing up to these Labs not only with clarity about work that needs to get done, but outcomes they hope to see. So the invitation is just to bring your full self to the table and have a conversation. Come co-create plans and collaborations that will support change. The invitation is, “Let's work together to not go back to things the way they were because nothing is holding us all the way we need to be held.” I just had a conversation with one of our speakers reiterating that everybody is a leader! I want leaders of foundations working alongside community organizers and recent college graduates. I want everybody sitting alongside each other.
AR: I think a leader is anyone who feels like they have any agency… I would say welcome to folks who are interested in participating. We need you. Please, be curious about these conversations. What do you have to lose?
How do you think New Pathways connects to other similar conversation series emerging across the U.S. and the world about creating new systems?
AR: It’s true that we are in the midst of the chaos and trauma of this pandemic. Everything is horrible. So let me preface what I’m going to say next by saying I'm aware that it’s a privilege to be able to even be in this space. But I do think this time is giving some people the permission to actually dream of something new... There are conversations happening about what life could look like if you were you were able to dream. “If you could start from square one, what would you build?” I believe, for the first time, some folks actually believe a better future may be attainable. Again, to even think this way, I know this is a privilege. All of my basic needs are met, and I’m in a mental space where I can actually think about what is next... But right now a lot of people are feeling like, “Oh, I actually get to create something new… there's something new here that may be sustainable and long lasting.” I think this is why folks are leading conversations with a certain level of veracity that they didn't have before. Actual change is possible because there simply is no going back.
GVS: Right. I would just add that there's also a sense of vulnerability right now.
People are reaching out to be in community and search for answers… I love Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Under the Blacklight” series. I send all of our activists, allies, and accomplices to go there every Wednesday night (or catch up on Crenshaw’s Intersectionality Matters podcast) because I think that's really helpful. The work of that unique series is keeping visible the structures that we ought to talk about, but don't talk about, and their real-time impact on all of us. I think this time of reflection and vulnerability is really what is unique and will remain unique about this time.
What did you both enjoy about the first New Pathways Lab on Thursday evening, “Whose stories are emerging?”
GVS: Thursday night, we had a conversation that built on Jenn Smith's New Pathways Talk “Whose stories are emerging?” with Jenn Smith, Setsuko Winchester, Dawn Meredith Simmons, and Susan Witt. I'm glad this one kicked the whole lab series off because it's what we've been talking about: multiple voices being important, not just the same leaders of the same organizations we see all of the time, but many, many leaders throughout our community.
AR: Yes! I’ll say it about this talk. “Take back the media!” This is all about narrative. To Gwendolyn’s point, “Whomever has the pen has the power.” We see this all of the time. We’ll see it with COVID-19, too... who came to save the day and who didn’t. Narrative is key in this time. This whole series serves as a reminder of this.
What are you looking forward to about Friday morning’s conversation, “Local and Sustainable Economies?”
GVS: This one is exciting because we're thinking about local agriculture, decentralizing the food system, and Indigenous wisdom in the land here in the Berkshires. We have Anna Gilbert-Muhammed coming from the Springfield area, and we’ll talk about urban gardening and the work we are doing around community gardens and raised beds and CSAs. We're trying to help people figure out how to source their own local food, no matter how their house is set up. Greg Watson from Schumacher is coming in to walk us through how gentrification does not have to mean displacement… I'm just so thrilled to have him come speak about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative... I'm really excited to dig into the work happening at the local level... just feeling the ripple effects of this.
AR: Yes, please! This is about food access, and it’s a conversation that often gets left out of larger conversations. It's strategic that it gets left out… why that happens and how that happens. I look forward to bridging the discussion of food access with the one about gentrification and how it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.
What are you looking forward to about Friday afternoon’s conversation: “Who is caring for the economic survival of our Black and Brown communities?”
GVS: First, there is the Roxbury connection. Greg Watson has the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Malia Lazu lives in Roxbury where she actually recorded her New Pathways Talk in a park. Roxbury is a wonderful community where the life expectancy for African Americans is also 30% less than predominantly White areas in Boston. But there is great work happening in Roxbury, including Reevx Labs now, a project Malia has created. So we're going to hear from her in her New Pathways Talk. John Lewis of the Berkshire Black Economic Committee will join us. And then we have Shirley Edgerton, a longtime activist in our community here in the Berkshires. So this conversation will definitely inspire people.
AR: I think centering the local situation gives people a true example as to what might be... Then people can alter, modify, and customize things to whatever situation or industry they are in. So I’m definitely looking forward to this one.
What are you looking forward to about Saturday’s conversation, “Investing in Our Future?”
GVS: Social justice is a term that drives me a little batty sometimes, but when you look it up, it's really about leveraging resources for positive social impact. All of these conversations (and our BRIDGE trainings) are about exactly this. So I wanted to have a conversation with people who are thinking about [philanthropy and investing] differently. Josie Green is a leader with a family foundation who has been doing good work locally. She's very engaged in anti-racism work in the eastern part of the state. Tuti Scott has been working on philanthropy and gender equity for a really long time. Tracy Gray is a powerhouse who is working on two incredible initiatives, We Are Enough and The 22 Fund. I know Aseante’s work is also about changing who gets to decide what communities need. I was also just talking to Alex Dest who will join us for this conversation. It’s going to be really exciting.
What do you mean when you talk about the Labs being opportunities for co-creation?
AR: It depends on the level at which people are entering the conversation! A person’s ability to imagine something beyond what they currently see determines how much co-creating they can actually do, right?! If my imagination only allows me this much, I can do a lot of co-creating right here in this small space… This is where I can partner with someone on my work because someone is going to help ME with something... For example, “I see an opportunity that is connected to moving the dial on my own work.” There's nothing wrong with that. That is a certain kind of co-creation. For someone else, cooperation means, “I have a skill that I can give to another industry, person, campaign, or organization, and I know it can help them move the dial on something.” That's also co-creation. One person says, “I made this cake, and it would be really great if you could bring the sugar and the egg so I can make this other cake.” And then you create a beautiful cake together. Someone else says, “I made this cake, and I would love for you to decorate it because you just have an eye for that.” Someone else says, “I have this stuff for cake, but based on what you just said, it really sounds like we need to make brownies! So let's figure out how to make brownies here!” Then you may have another person who looks at this New Pathways work and says, “I want to help create something completely new... I have an idea that may include both of us and a whole bunch of other people...” That work may happen in different phases. But in all of these scenarios, co-creation is happening. It just depends on what people need and where people are at and their capacities or resources.
What are your hopes for this New Pathways series?
AR: My first hope, to be totally honest, is that people get a little uncomfortable. Change doesn’t happen unless you're uncomfortable. The only people that like change are babies, and it's because they're uncomfortable! These conversations may come up against some things that people believe or raise new questions. My second hope is that there is comfort! At some point, conversations will turn to wonder and there will be a chance to explore what a new question means or actually start to work together on something to create a new level of change. These kinds of conversations bring camaraderie... People can say, “Yeah, I'm uncomfortable! I didn't get it!” But it only takes one person to help someone understand what was just said or to chime in, “It’s ok, I didn't know either.”
Some people feel like they have to be super woke, like when you work for social justice, you have to be a superhero. You don't. We're human! A huge hope of mine is that people hit that moment of discomfort, push past it, and really start to ask, “How are we going to do something different?” If just one person connects with someone outside of their inner circle and their self-curated world, then we’ve succeeded.
I also just want to acknowledge that it is no easy feat to put something like this together. And, as a Black woman living where Gwendolyn lives, servicing all the different communities that she services, trying to be a conductor in those spaces--there can be a lot of barriers, again, because people are a little hesitant when it comes to change. So this is a really heavy lift. And often, when things look seamless and easy, it means people are behind the scenes losing their mind.
I know it's been a burden of love, but I want to acknowledge just how much work goes into creating this... the content that has been created, the level of care and attention that has gone into the content curation, the different panelists who are connected to this work... all of the different ways people can get involved, the user-friendliness of it all… it's not easy. Gwendolyn is a powerhouse and is doing amazing work in laying the foundation for some real transformative conversations and breakthroughs in the next couple of weeks. That shouldn't be taken lightly and in no way shape or form, is it easy to facilitate!
Hello BRIDGE family,
I hope everyone is doing as well as they can right now. We're onto the second week of May and I'm very excited about our upcoming projects. I have the new title of Digital Programs Coordinator, and in that capacity, I've been putting out content on our Instagram page, specifically on IGTV. We're participating in #Mermay, and every weekday in May, I'm making a coloring page and a drawing video. Currently, we're doing Mermaid Superheroes, which is super fun for me, and hopefully is bringing joy to some folks out there. Coloring is great for stress relief, no matter what age you are!
Soon, also on Instagram, we will have educational videos from our Happiness Toolbox educators and collaborators. Stay tuned for those!
Are your young people still looking for things to do? Well, I've got some suggestions! Our friends over at Rites Of Passage are doing Youth Link. Click this link to see the various Zoom nights they will be doing with youth. Click here to email Shirley Edgerton about your young person participating.
Our Partners and friends over at Art Omi are releasing an art project you can do at home weekly! Click here to subscribe to their newsletter, and start creating!
Our "New Pathways" video series, Talks and Labs are coming in less than a week, on Monday, May 18th! If you stay subscribed to our newsletter, we will post as they are being released. They will also be on our website and on our Youtube page. We are also pleased to be doing a New Pathways podcast series in which we have further dialogues with our presenters. Here is the trailer!
We hope you're staying safe, sane, and healthy. Be well, do as much good work as you possibly can, and stay safe out there!
- JV Hampton-VanSant
Digital Programs Coordinator
The Solidarity & Sustainability Program with Woven Roots Farm & Education Center
At Woven Roots Farm, we learn from the soil that mutual aid is essential for existence. Now more than ever, we are turning towards enlarging our own capacities and creating new pathways towards food security in our community. Partnering with BRIDGE helps us to understand both individual & collective interests and needs in our marginalized communities, and weave deeply rooted, culturally respectful responses.
Fresh, clean food is a basic human right. In order to have access to that, we need vibrant local farms, resilient skill sharing, ongoing education, and community support. Our Solidarity & Sustainability Program, created with BRIDGE, provides foundational support by offering a weekly distribution of nutrient-dense, seasonal food -- June to November -- through membership in our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This program also provides vegetable starts and seeds to households with established gardens, as well as access to new garden spaces through our collaboration with Greenagers’ Front Lawn Food Program. Additionally, we are creating pathways of empowerment by creating ongoing support through classes, webinars, and direct consultation for BRIDGE community members who are ready to build skills in land stewardship, gardening, cooking, and preserving.
We are being given the opportunity to create a new tomorrow firmly rooted in justice -- a tomorrow that embraces the dignity of all humanity and nature. It is time to plant and cultivate a future where we return to taking care of each other and our Earth. Partnering with BRIDGE is helping us create equitable & participatory practices that build resilience in our community.
Dear BRIDGE community,
I hope this update finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. I want to thank you all for supporting our non-profit during this pandemic and supporting our network of community support. We are activating in many small ways and amplifying two major efforts that I will explain here.
BRIDGE has always intended to be a resource and connector of resources in our community and beyond. Our intention is to facilitate and amplify in mutually respectful ways the integration of diverse perspectives and needs in our shared communities. We believe in the long-term positive impact of holistic approaches to health, finance, education and community-building!
In the time of COVID-19, we are using our collective knowledge, human and social capital & resource base in staff, volunteers and partners to provide the most culturally responsiveness support. Our connectedness has enabled us to serve families in need rapidly and locate others who would benefit. Last week over 30 volunteers worked alongside staff and shopped, sorted and delivered supplies to families in need--along with that we provide services to connect them to our local resources relevant to their situation and facilitate to the extent needed. Thank you to many individual donors and the Berkshire United Way COVID Response for making this possible!
Our assessment is simple-- we listen to vulnerable families. Families that in their present circumstance or in their social or health profiles are even doubly at risk. These are families that use our services, trust our approach and/or have a connection to somone that does. Our primary focus is vulnerability in the systemic and cultural sense.
If you want to give or volunteer, follow the links below.
Our fourth distribution of supplies, food and information will be delivered this upcoming Friday. Many many individuals are supporting the production of masks. In a mutual aid/neighborhood style, we are serving 71 families, ie. 117 adults incl. 12 elders of Latinx and African American heritage, 40 children, 7 infants, and 11 adolescents. Also, we are making sustainable partnerships with local businesses and local farms for fresh and local food for the foreseeable future with Wildseed, Random Harvest, Woven Roots, Hill ‘n Hollow and more! Stay tuned!
TOMORROW! MAY 3rd our Friends at WAM Theatre are doing a reading to support these efforts! Please attend this play and important conversation and know all of your contributions are going to our local families. Thank you WAM!
Register here: https://www.wamtheatre.com/fresh-takes-online-campus-unrest/
Announcing: New Pathways
In the next month we would like you to mark your calendars for the release of New Pathways Talks online. Accompanying those talks will be webinars, action labs and community conversations for those who want deeper dives, a community or a mini action plan! The launch of those sessions will be May 21-May 24th. Our IDEA Institute Train the Trainer has pivoted and will now host these new conversations that support the ideology of the IDEA Institute @BRIDGE.
More about New Pathways: We are thrilled to be working with Outpost Studios for the video production of our new project curated by our CEO and founding director, Gwendolyn VanSant, Berkshire Business & Professional Women “Woman of the Year” 2019!
We want to welcome to a new collection of talks and webinars/action labs* (coming soon!) intended to seed an equitable and resilient future based on justice, healing, and transformation! As BRIDGE stays committed to our mission of advancing equity and justice, we are sharing these short and accessible talks with local and national leaders to support new forms of leadership and organizing during and post COVID-19.
This platform will host talks on equity and inclusion, healthcare, financial health and literacy, mindfulness, belonging and more. Our speakers bring their own unique wisdom to the table and their messages are aligned with our core values at BRIDGE. Whether you are new to our work or a longtime client or partner, this series will be a useful resource to you right now and a valuable supplement to our core offerings. This series will serve as both an oxygen mask during these challenging times as well as an opportunity to create new pathways in our hearts, brains, and (thereby) our work.
As always, please check our Events section for all information on upcoming events.
Stay healthy, stay informed, and thank you to our beloved community,
-Gwendolyn and the BRIDGE team!
Dear BRIDGE community,
“This moment is where even through our actions, material or not we can truly prove to ourselves power belongs in our own hands.”
We are in times we have never seen before and at BRIDGE we are grateful for our community. We are grateful for the practice we have built together to tackle barriers and build resilient connections. Those connections are holding strong and true over the last few weeks whether it be over Zoom or a conference call.
We have been busy within our network of mutual aid, ie. cooperation for the sake of the common good, among our donors, activists, constituents, stakeholders and employees. Our focus has been preparedness and lifting up our community while supporting each other in mobilizing within and among ourselves. We of course are reaching to those institutions locally, statewide, and federally that can support but/AND we know our strength is in the care shown for your neighbors and family and then trust in that ripple effect.
“Mutual Aid is a way we can build networks in our backyard or our community to give aid and receive it if we need it. We can choose to share instead of hoard. We can choose to help instead of hurt.”
In the work:
Here at BRIDGE, we haven't missed a step! Our programs have been running. We have increased our touchpoints with our program participants over the last weeks and will continue to do so. Our staff have worked hard to pivot to working differently and making our BRIDGE programs successful. Thereby BRIDGE commits to our collective humanity again and over and over.
Connect with BRIDGE on Instagram!
Tune in with BRIDGE! We have storytime with JV providing a BRIDGE message for youngsters at noontime during the Week on Instagram. Check these out and tell a friend! JV will be reading some original books and some tried and true authors we love at BRIDGE!
*PROGRAM POSTPONED: Please note (due to COVID-19) we have just received notice today that the Hilton Garden Inn, our host for recording, will be closed ‘til June and also have been asked by participants to postpone the IDEA Institute: Cultural Competence Foundations weekend retreat (tentatively) to May 2020 for our alternative Zoom presentation. We will have some sample programming but the full program will launch in May and the IDEA Institute: Train-the-Trainer will happen at a later date in the Spring. More information to current registrants will be shared shortly! Stay tuned for more digital options over the next month.
All inquiries and RSVPs are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading our updates and being a part of our community! Thank you to the donors who are supporting us and thank you to the volunteers working alongside us every day! And please send love and appreciation to our staff for their work.
Onward in community,
P.s. Please support our efforts by making a contribution today, join Amazon smile or post a Facebook fundraiser in your network!
Member Spotlight: Berkshire Bank
Diversity & Inclusion
Thank you to the Berkshire Bank team for the support and collaboration! The online trainings and chats have been a nice & fun addition to our repertoire and making our essential work even more accessible!
Hey there, BRIDGE Families! JV Here!
I know times are hectic at the very least, if not downright scary. Tensions are running high, with people worried about health, loss of work, and the other very present dangers coming up during this crisis.
We at BRIDGE want you to know that we are here for you and your family! I, specifically, wanted to do something nice for those with youngsters suddenly stuck at home. So, starting on Monday, at 1:00 pm, I will be reading some of our favorite books on Instagram Live. We will be going through some of our favorites from various writers, including Brad Meltzer, Monica Sheehan, Dawn Casey, Claire Rudolph Murphy, and yours truly!
If you would like to tune in to that, please click here, and give us a follow. We are @MulticulturalBRIDGEReads on Instagram.
If you’re adjusting to home educational programs, I have some recommendations for things to consider. If you’re looking to help your young people engage in learning activities, check out Kiwico, a company dedicated to making science fun to learn for young people.
When I was younger, nothing was more exciting than getting to build things and explore how the world works. I was totally a science kid, and I’m sure some of you parents were too. I also know, and parents can back me up on this part, that one of the most fun times you can have with your kid is helping them put together a cool project. Have fun and turn your home into a mini science fair! Sounds fun, right? Kiwico has a bunch of free projects on their resources page. Click here to check those out.
Also, here's some context for this next recommendation: At our summer program, Happiness Toolbox, we focus on our character strengths. If you want to figure out what your character strengths are, click here to visit the VIA Character Institute Strength Survey.
A game I’ve played with a lot of my classes is called “Tower”. The instructions couldn’t be more simple. Just gather a bunch of plastic cups (for a team/family of 2-6 people, I’d recommend 100-250 plastic cups) and work together to build the best tower you can. This game is deceptively fun for everybody from age 5 to 75, maybe even 105! This activity encourages teamwork and communication, helps develop problem-solving skills, exercises your child’s spatial awareness and planning skill, and most importantly, helps your child build up their resilience skills in a very low stakes way. This is my favorite activity to play with any group because it’s a wonderful icebreaker activity. This is really popular with ages 8.5 to 12, but if you have a teenager at home, you can make it more complicated by adding different challenges or even setting a time limit. It’s highly adaptable, and once you start, you’ll be amazed at how quickly time flies.
If you’re looking for more things for your youngsters to engage with, might I recommend Audible? Audible has a plethora of FREE audiobooks for kids, tweens, and teens! Click here to see some of what they offer. I personally love Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland for ages 7 to 12. And a special tip for high school students, who may have been asked to read some of the classic literature, having it read to you might make it easier to absorb. My all-time favorites (for teenagers) are Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein.
That’s all for me today! Stay safe out there, and remember to wash your hands. We will be alright, and we will get through this. Try to stay positive, and don’t forget to find things that make you smile.
I will talk to you all again soon!
PS: Stay tuned! I'll be back with more activities and games soon. Stay safe out there!!~
PPS: Parents, here is an uplifting video: on Character Strengths.
Dear BRIDGE Families,
The BRIDGE team is extending immense love and care to you all during this time of great concern and the unknown. We hope that this letter finds you and your family hunkering down in good health and using your many character strengths (especially courage, patience, and creativity!) to get through this time.
First and foremost, we are writing to check in, let you know what resources are available, and find out how we can best support you and your family.
Copied below are a list of community resources, including Berkshire County locations offering grab & go breakfast and lunches for students. If you or your family are in need of support with food or supplies pick-ups, send requests to email@example.com so we can support you in getting what you need. Please call the office if you do not have email. It may take 2-3 business days given our COVID-19 schedule.
We also wanted to share some digital resources that may be helpful during this time:
We are deeply committed to seeing our community through safely, in good health, and in a sound body until we can all be together again. The Coronavirus is creating challenges for all of us but we know that we will make it through together with lots of love, communication, and care. We will keep you updated with new information, community resources/supports available, and will be sharing a Happiness Toolbox Webinar as well as at-home activity project ideas.
Please reach out to let us know how you are doing and how BRIDGE can make our best effort to support you with food/supplies pickup & delivery, community connections, or other needs that may arise during this time.
Again, we are taking all requests at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in need of help connecting with services, please contact email@example.com separately.
Your BRIDGE Family
Stephanie Wright, Lead Educator and Community Engagement Coordinator
Ari Cameron, BRIDGE Co-Chair
Gwendolyn VanSant, CEO and Founding Director
See more information here on local resources including food and medical services.
Estimadas familias de BRIDGE:
El equipo de BRIDGE está extendiendo un inmenso amor y cuidado a todos ustedes durante este tiempo de gran preocupación a lo desconocido. Esperamos que esta carta les encuentre a usted y su familia acurrucados con buena salud y utilizando sus fortalezas de carácter (¡especialmente coraje, paciencia y creatividad!) Para superar este momento.
En primer lugar, estamos escribiendo para saber de ustedes e informarles qué recursos están disponibles y descubrir cómo podemos apoyar mejor a usted y a su familia.
A continuación, se incluye una lista de recursos de la comunidad, incluidas las ubicaciones del condado de Berkshire que ofrecen desayunos y almuerzos para llevar a los estudiantes. Si usted o su familia necesitan apoyo para recoger alimentos o suministros, envíe sus solicitudes a firstname.lastname@example.org para que podamos ayudarlo a obtener lo que necesita. Por favor llame a la oficina si no tiene correo electrónico. Puede tomar de 2 a 3 días hábiles dado nuestro programa COVID-19.
También queríamos compartir algunos recursos digitales que pueden ser útiles durante este tiempo:
Estamos profundamente comprometidos a ver nuestra comunidad de manera segura, con buena salud y un cuerpo sano hasta que podamos estar todos juntos nuevamente. El Coronavirus está creando desafíos para todos nosotros, pero sabemos que lo lograremos juntos con mucho amor, comunicación y cuidado. Lo mantendremos actualizado con nueva información, recursos ,apoyos comunitarios disponibles, y compartiremos un seminario en internet de Happiness Toolbox, así como ideas de proyectos de actividades en el hogar.
Comuníquese con nosotros para informarnos cómo le está yendo y cómo BRIDGE puede hacer el mejor esfuerzo para apoyarlo con la recolección y entrega de alimentos / suministros, conexiones con la comunidad u otras necesidades que puedan surgir durante este tiempo.
Nuevamente, estamos tomando todas las solicitudes en email@example.com. Si necesita ayuda para conectarse con los servicios, comuníquese con firstname.lastname@example.org por separado.
Tu familia BRIDGE
Stephanie Wright, educadora principal y coordinadora de participación comunitaria
Ari Cameron, Coopresidenta de BRIDGE
Gwendolyn VanSant, CEO y Director Fundador