February is the month to honor African American Heritage in the US. Please find intentional ways to do so both for your local community and the country at large!
I hope you all are doing well!
We want to remind you of a few meetings coming up and also have you see some of the reorganization that has happened at BRIDGE! We are excited to expand our BRIDGE team with individuals that have been engaged with BRIDGE in several ways over the past years. We look forward to working alongside you.
IDEA Institute at BRIDGE launches the first annual Berkshire Inclusive Leadership Cohort fo Social Change starting February 9!
Read more here: https://www.multiculturalbridge.org/online-training.html
Co-sponsored by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, BRIDGE, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Community College
Please welcome our Cohort Leaders for Justice and Equity in the Berkshires from Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire Bridges- Working Cities, Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, Berkshire Community College, Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Berkshire Bank, Berkshire Museum, Art Omi, IS183, WAM Theatre, Jacobs Pillow, BRIDGE, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, MCLA Institute for Arts and Humanities, Mass MoCa, Hancock Shaker Village, Williams College, Chesterwood, General Dynamics, the Mount and Shakespeare and Company.
Food Sovereignty and Sustainability
Gibran Riviera Keynote from the New Pathways Conference
Dear Friends of BRIDGE,
BRIDGE is hard at work today (re)launching our Mutual Aid for 93 families in our Berkshire Community for 2021. This is made possible by the generous end of year contributions and our ongoing and deepening collaborations in our community to make this a safer, more inclusive place for vulnerable families, especially the underrepresented and underserved Black and Brown Communities and our elders. Some families are new recruits due to the COVID impact on work security, education stability for their children or have been directly impacted by having members of the family COVID positive in the last few weeks and some families this community has seen through the rough spot to stability. We are learning daily as a staff, volunteer and community what it means to live in mutuality.
We also are still mourning the events of January 6th at Capitol Hill and stark racism and white supremacy stronghold in this Country. Nationally and locally, we have seen a multitude of events that have threatened safety and justice in our community and the only choice each of us have is to act with commensurate power leveraging your influence, resources and energy for the good of all communities.
Please find an opportunity to join us in community to co-create an MLK day of service in honor of Dr. King’s birthday and several civil rights giants’ contributions, learning together and planning for the safety of our Berkshire community on Monday. Join our BRIDGE staff and local clergy partners in making this a day of beloved community in 2021.
In honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday, we are offering a series of community gatherings from 10-3. We will start with a Day of Service where we will gather to create projects, sign up for stations for family tech help and have an “I Have a Dream” corner listening to Dr. King’s Speech in community and also reading a children’s book of his incredible life story. For the noontime, Rev. Sloan Letman IV of BRIDGE, BIO and Cathedral of the Beloved will join BRIDGE for a noontime service. We will end the day with our first New Pathways Lab of the year with DA Andrea Harrington, Director of Community Engagement Bryan House, Assistant US Attorney Scott Garland (Hate Crimes Specialist) and Community Outreach Specialist Cara Henderson to discuss safety in our community, what has been threatening it and what we want to do about it? Here is the registration link:
Community challenge: Tell us your dream for 2021. What will you do to get us there in our shared community? Take pictures and post on social media and tag BRIDGE. Find us at #BRIDGE413 on social media, on IG multicultural-bridge and friends of BRIDGE, on Twitter at BRIDGE413, tag us on Facebook. Use hashtags #bridge413 #revdrmlkjr #ihaveadream #allhandsin. Tag us and let us know at BRIDGE your dream ~families and children welcome!
Also in this bulletin, you will find a message from our BRIDGE board and finally, we do want to celebrate the work in GA and the many milestones it represents for protecting our rights and democracy as well as the work of strongly dedicated community organizers and leaders and Black women under Stacy Abrams guidance.
Locally, we have the Du Bois Middle School sign installed and also I want to alert you all to the Du Bois Legacy Committee working with the Town of Great Barrington to create the country’s first Du Bois Day on his birthday, Feb. 23rd! Read one of the articles here. In all of the darkness there is light. We look forward to celebrating Dr. Du Bois on February 23rd with the Town of Great Barrington W.E.B. Du Bois Legacy Committee. Stay tuned!
Happ(ier) New Year and see you soon!
In the struggle together,
Board Response to the terror and injustice of January 6th, 2021
We, the BRIDGE Board, condemn the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The flagrant White Supremacy on display and lack of police response was a revealing window into the injustice at the heart of who we are as a country, particularly contrasted with the violent, militarized responses to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. While the violent events of January 6th were disheartening and infuriating, they are not a surprise to BRIDGE. This was the natural outcome of our continued failure to address White Supremacy’s hold on our society and to hold those who are actively encouraging White Supremacy to account. We recognize that this failure is deep and foundational and goes far beyond this administration or these specific events; White Supremacy has ripples of impact throughout our country and shows up in every community, including the Berkshires, in the most oppressive and harmful ways.
There can be no call to action for unity without first a call to action for accountability. We wish to highlight this recent quote from Gwendolyn VanSant, our Founding Director and CEO: “I’ve been really pushing white counterparts ... to see how really extreme things can get when everyone’s just waiting for someone else to address it. Really, everyone can participate in disrupting … the biases day to day in a workplace or any other type of institution.” This is not over - and it will not end until we all take action to hold ourselves, our institutions, and our communities accountable to reckoning with and dismantling White Supremacy.
Reflecting on our Black Lives Matter Statement from last year and the commitments that we made as a Board, there are several actions that we feel are necessary. We need to use our influence to interrupt, challenge, and dismantle the cultural systems that created and maintain disparities between White people and People of Color, at every level. We need to have authentic and painful conversations about how White Supremacy culture shows up in ourselves, our community, and our country. And we need to prioritize care and support for BRIDGE staff and other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our community, holding the impact of these recent events on their health and safety, both physical and emotional. We call on everyone to take action to confront White Supremacy in our community and to stand firm for justice, accountability, and equity. We must be vigilant in holding those who are intent on harming African American and immigrant communities accountable.
The BRIDGE Board:
Rev Sloan Letman IV, Jeff Lowenstein, Veronica Fenton, Esq., Steve Glick, Gabriela Cruz, Alexis Claytor, Elizabeth Adams, Erica Barreto, MaryAnn Norris, and Gwendolyn VanSant, Founding Director
I have a dream that we won’t have to talk about ‘restorative justice’ because it will be understood that true justice is about restoration, and about transformation. I have a dream. ~Howard Zehr
Also if you missed Greg Watson’s Keynote Presentation, Greg Watson, "Radical Civics and Civil Anarchy", at our New Pathways Social Justice Conference, you can find it here! Inspiring as always~
Dear BRIDGE Community,
This year has contained multitudes! With the grace and perseverance of BRIDGE’s expert team and dedicated volunteers, constituents across the Berkshires and beyond have felt the tangible impact of BRIDGE’s work-- in the form of connection and training through New Pathways, in the form of groceries, meals, PPE, and bills paid, in the form of accountability for local businesses and organizations to show up for the communities they serve.
Over the last few years, I have had the honor of being a board member at BRIDGE. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work closely with Gwendolyn (who in her BRIDGE coaching role provides high-level consulting and direct support to other boards) on continuing to bring BRIDGE’s board policies, processes, and members into alignment with BRIDGE’s mission and work. We have worked to integrate accountability practices into our board culture, and will be officially making our TRJ Accountability a subcommittee of Governance. Our abilities to communicate, collaborate, and strategize as a board have grown as we form intentional ways of connecting and coordinating.
As BRIDGE grows to meet the scale and scope of demand, I want to highlight that the organization has continuously stayed connected to its original mission to act as a catalyst for change. The level of integrity practiced throughout the organization is one of the pieces that drew me to working with BRIDGE and something that remains central to BRIDGE’s organizing and work. I am so excited to see BRIDGE continue to flourish and be recognized as a leading changemaker and a model for grassroots organizing across the state and country!
Thank you to the BRIDGE team for all the ways you have shown up this year and prioritized care and collaboration. Thank you to BRIDGE’s volunteers for all your behind the scenes work to support your neighbors and BRIDGE’s programs. Thank you to my fellow board members for your partnership and generosity. Thank you to Gwendolyn, for your mentorship, vision, and the depth of care that you bring to all the spaces you and BRIDGE inhabit. Towards a new year filled with justice, transformation, sustainability, and joy!
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.)
Dear BRIDGE Community:
We are writing you to welcome the Fall season and share recent happenings and also engage you all with BRIDGE for the season. To our friends of Jewish faith and tradition, Yom Tov and we hope you have a meaningful fast. It is an intense time in our country and we are grateful to all of those in deep reflection on Yom Kippur.
We are STILL celebrating the renaming of the W.E.B. DuBois Regional Middle School and the national coverage it received! We are clear that it has taken steady advocacy in education for decades and BRIDGE Is proud to align with our community to activate and hold strong in the eleventh hour when we were all challenged to take this courageous RIGHT step in our history! Read here and please review the beautiful letters that cascaded to the school committee on Sept. 3rd in excess of 350 in 24 hrs to hold steady with our tri-town commitment!
DuBois, native son, songwriter of the future.
“A great song arose, the loveliest thing born this side the seas. It was a new song. It did not come from Africa, though the dark throb and beat of that Ancient of Days was in it and through it. It did not come from white America - never from so pale and hard and thin a thing, however deep those vulgar and surrounding tones had driven. Not the Indies nor the hot South, the cold East or the heavy West made that music. It was a new song and its deep and plaintive beauty, its great cadences and wild appeal wailed, throbbed and thundered on the world’s ears with a message seldom voiced by man. It swelled and blossomed like incense, improvised and born anew out of an age long past, and weaving into its texture the old and new melodies in word and in thought. They sneered at it– those white Southerners who heard it and never understood. They raped and defiled it– those white Northerners who listened without ears. Yet it lived and grew; always it grew and swelled and lived, and it sits today at the right hand of God, as America's one real gift to beauty; as slavery's one redemption, distilled from the dross of its dung.”
BRIDGE receives President's Medallion from MCLA
BRIDGE is very excited to accept the President's Medallion for the MCLA 125th anniversary. We are one of three recipients and were also honored with a Special Toast afterward, hosted by Greylock Federal Credit Union.
See a recording of the 125th Anniversary Celebration, including Gwendolyn's speech, here: https://app.mobilecause.com/e/5HiCpw?vid=c2r8t
Moonlight Mile Art Auction
Local artists including Diana Felber, Pops Peterson, Melissa Bissell, Clemente Sajquiy Ramirez, Samuel VanSant, and many more artists support BRIDGE through our Moonlight Mile Auction. Please see our Virtual Auction page and spread the word! We have a few more pieces dedicated and uploading soon. Auction runs through November and will make great holiday pieces! Stay tuned for a Moonlight Mile gathering for all supporters during this SJIA, social justice in action event! Follow us on Instagram to find out more about the artists who are supporting BRIDGE with their original work!
New Pathways Social Justice Conference Nov. 6-9 with Dr. Angela Davis live on Zoom!
Just days following the election whether hopeful and optimistic or concerned about the next four years, we need community for any real sustainable change. During this conference we will renew our commitment and collective agency through civic engagement! In true BRIDGE New Pathways style, we present a Justice, Transformation and Healing conference Nov. 6-9 with a focus on continuing the movement for gender, race and economic justice!
We are calling for proposals and sponsors to join us!
To Register, click here! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/moving-the-dial-on-race-class-and-justice-strategies-new-pathways-tickets-123088425795
For more information and to download flyers: https://www.multiculturalbridge.org/new-pathways-social-justice-conference-2020.html
CALL FOR PROPOSALS & PRESENTATIONS
We are inviting leaders from the arts, business, education, human service, DEI, faith groups, philanthropy and public safety. Please submit a proposal (for pre-recorded and interactive sessions) in at least one of the following areas:
SCHEDULE (subject to change, info to follow)
CALL FOR SPONSORS
We are inviting organizations from all sectors across the nation to co-sponsor this event or sponsor an individual, smaller or group or non-profit's participation.
Sponsored by Lennox Foundation, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Williams College Davis Center, Urban Labs, and Willow Investments for Loving Change.
By the Way Berkshires covered our food distribution in this article: https://btwberkshires.com/food/food-sustainability/.
PBS NewsHour covered Race in Berkshire County this past Sunday!
Hear from intergenerational Black Activists on aspirations and reality around race equity in the Berkshires. Watch PBS Newshour for a segment on the Black Lives Matter movement in rural communities across the U.S. Earlier this summer, our Founding Director and CEO was interviewed alongside other local racial justice leaders and asked to speak about my experience leading this work in a predominantly White rural area in New England. I am honored to play a part in connecting our Berkshires to the collective national anti-racism movement. Our interviewer is a Berkshire native and fellow Rocker, Zachary Green!
Also, if you missed our New Pathways event with Dr. Beverly Tatum and Central Berkshire School District on Aug. 31st: You can view the Facebook Live recordings here!
Here is where you can see the live recording from Facebook:
Our local partners at Macedonia Baptist Church in Great Barrington experienced a hate crime this past weekend with vandalism with a racialized slur. We are calling for Reparations in collaboration with the Black Church leaders. I remind you all that these are women of color in leadership and to follow their lead. We need funding for cameras, motion sensor lights and just acts of kindness in letters for the congregation. Mail checks to BRIDGE made out to Macedonia Baptist Church or make contributions to Macedonia Baptist Church on our PayPal Link by noting in memo for Macedonia Baptist Church.
Stay tuned for the local action of our Stop Hate Campaign in Great Barrington! We are asking all residents and businesses to adopt the pledge and be accountable to intolerance in our community.
Reports have been made to the Local Police Department and the Department of Justice and investigations have ensued.
Reminder of our Safe Communities Trust Policy in Great Barrington! This is a community responsibility! #allhandsin
Ways to support BRIDGE
A special thank you to local small businesses aligning with the anti-racism work and mission of BRIDGE! Thank you! ❤❤
Thanks to our Accountability & Volunteer Coordinator, Sara Mugridge, for this quote…
“To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.”
Please join us to move in our anti-racism work.
Week of 9/28:
MCLA 125th Anniversary Toast where Gwendolyn is being honored on 9/29 4-6pm
Men's Caucus for Racial Justice on 9/28 7-9pm
Towards Racial Justice on 10/1 6:30-9pm
Week of 10/5:
BRIDGE Race Task Force Meeting on 10/5 12:30-2pm
SSS Garden Class on 10/7 5-7pm
Update: Recent Canning Class held on Sept. 9th 5-7pm on Woven Roots Farm with NOFA Mass
Week of 10/19:
White Caucus for Racial Justice on 10/22 7-9pm
Week of 10/26:
Men's Caucus for Racial Justice on 10/26 7-9pm
POC Caucus in 10/28
New Pathways Conference on Nov. 6th, 7th, 8th
#sayhername - Breonna Taylor
The Heart of a Woman? poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson of the Harlem Renaissance
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.
The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.
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!