Dear BRIDGE Community,
We personally want to thank YOU for being in community with us! You all make BRIDGE what it is with love and gusto!
Last week, we had a fun dance night and good food connection and intergenerational cross-cultural fun (did I say FUN?) was had by all attending at our pop-up SJIA! I hope you will join us for future celebrations, wings and dancing as we enjoy the rest of our summer.
We have been busy at BRIDGE this summer in so many ways. We take pride in supporting our clients and some of us are busy making plans with our youth leaders for the 10th-anniversary Happiness Toolbox summer season. We also have made plans to do a two-day pilot for Cheshire and surrounding towns at Luna Búho Farm July 30th and July 31st with a family presentation 4 PM on July 31st. We will be drumming with Otha Day, dancing, practicing literacy through Spanish and Computer coding, reading with local Authors Ty Jackson and JV Hampton VanSant, and learning our local Berkshire history through the legends of Dr. Du Bois, Laura Ingersoll, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Mumbett with Ms. Stephanie Wright. We will be enjoying the athlete, artist, naturalist, and dancer in all of us. Several youth leaders are sharing their talents, passions and favorite BRIDGE lessons with the program. Our themes are empathy, perseverance, and grit! We will explore the history of the land we use today... And need I say more!
"All art is a kind of confession,
more or less oblique.
All artists, if they are to survive,
are forced, at last, to tell the whole story;
to vomit the anguish up"
— James Baldwin
For you to get a sense of what we have been up to so far this season, please see the editorial strand, regarding a recent racially biased incident at Jacob’s Pillow and our two collaborative responses from accountability of TRJ and also the CEO letter with John Bissell (Greylock Federal Credit Union) and Peter Taylor (Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation).
As we live and practice true to our mission, we are advocates for the many marginalized voices and also we serve as a resource to institutions and organizations committed to change. We work towards cultural and systemic policy change.
Last week, we also shared a successful Bias Awareness Training hosted by NPC Berkshires and we are going in for part two on Thursday. We were happy to welcome several participants from Lee bank, Berkshire Community College, Public Health Institute, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, BRIDGE, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and more to the session. Thanks to NPC director and founder, Liana Toscanini, for the invitation and soliciting and publishing the piece on Colorblindness in the latest Connections magazine.
We celebrated with our sister organization WAM on their tenth anniversary as they announced their beneficiaries, Women of Color Giving Circle and Harmony Homestead, who were collectively nominated and chosen among WAM and BRIDGE staff! Happy birthday, WAM! Can’t wait for Pipeline—see the calendar to get your tickets!
Lastly, we had such fun at the Gather-In at Durant Park and also look forward to our Day Of Action with Yo Yo Ma and several community organizations in Pittsfield. Learn more here.
Newsflash: summer hEartbeat Match
We have a new Summer Challenge grant this summer in honor of the 10th anniversary of two of our core programs, Women to Women and Happiness Toolbox. Woo hoo!
Grace Church and the Ellis family (Tim, Lily and Levi of TRJ) have joined forces to offer $7,000 towards these two programs annual and celebration costs. It is time as you read for you to double your contribution by giving now because they have jointly issued the Heartbeat Match Challenge. Good news—we are more than halfway there at $3856! Make your donation here!
We love to return to Adrienne Maree Brown to reflect on inspiring folks in our networks to catalyze change by living an authentic life—the practice of reflection is a helpful step. Pause reflect and then get back to doing!
Do you already know that your existence--who and how you are--is in and of itself a contribution to the people and place around you? Not after or because you do some particular thing, but simply the miracle of your life. And that the people around you, and the place(s), have contributions as well? Do you understand that your quality of life and your survival are tied to how authentic and generous the connections are between you and the people and place you live with and in?
Are you actively practicing generosity and vulnerability in order to make the connections between you and others clear, open, available, durable? Generosity here means giving of what you have without strings or expectations attached. Vulnerability means showing your needs. - adrienne maree brown
Stay in touch with us! Thank you for all you do!
Dear BRIDGE Families,
We hope you are having a great start to your summer!
We have some important updates to share with you regarding the Happiness Toolbox Summer Program. Due to construction at Hevreh, we will no longer be holding the August 5-16: South County program at that location. August 5-16th: South County Happiness Toolbox Program will now be held at the First Congregational Church at 251 Main St, Great Barrington, MA. We will be hosting a northern Berkshires pilot in Cheshire July 28-August 2nd at Owl Moon Farm.
This year, we will host special guests: Ty Allen Jackson of Bighead Books, Otha Day of Drum to the Beat, A.J. Enchill, District Aide for Adam Hinds, and student athletes from Youth, Education, and Sports Initiative (YES). Our returning youth leaders: Damari Taylor, Maya and Westley Hampton VanSant, Jaiden Ellerbee, Miles and Audrey Allard and more! For our South County program, we will travel to Gideon's Garden both Friday afternoons to harvest, learn, and celebrate.
We are looking forward to our upcoming staff, volunteer, and youth leader training, in which the Happiness Toolbox team will be trained in BRIDGE's Happiness Toolbox Diversity Leadership and Positive Psychology frameworks by Gwendolyn and JV Hampton-VanSant as well the HANDLE model by Elizabeth Frishkoff on July 11, 2019.
"We Hold These Truths" Fourth of July Community Celebration and Reading of the Declaration of Independence
Thursday, July 4, 2019
(Lenox, MA) - In special partnership with BRIDGE, Shakespeare & Company host its annual Fourth of July Community Celebration “We Hold These Truths” from 1:30-5:00pm. This yearly event is an Independence Day celebration, held on Shakespeare & Company's Campus, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA 01240, with music, children's crafts and activities, and a public reading of one of the most stirring and influential documents in our country's history, The Declaration of Independence. This event is free, and an all-American barbeque will be available for purchase.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with BRIDGE for our Fourth of July Celebration," said Company Artistic Director, Allyn Burrows. "We find it vital to broaden the conversation around the values on which this country was founded in order for us all to evolve together."
The event will run from 1:30-5:00pm on Thursday, July 4 with ongoing activities for the whole family including free children's activities including: crafts table, face painting, and a photo booth. The Amy Ryan Band returns to perform a unique mix of country/rock blues. Shakespeare & Company artists and special guests Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Senator Adam Hinds, and District Attorney Andrea Harrington will read the Declaration of Independence beginning at 3:00pm. In celebration of our country’s diverse heritage and to inspire us to reflect on the multiple identities we hold as Americans, the day will also feature readings from Frederick Douglas, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, The 1848 Women’s Declaration of Sentiments, Harriet Tubman, and others. The event will also feature an independent community based group of dancers performing a Colombian folkloric piece in celebration of preserving their history and culture through performance.
"As we focus on multiple truths, independence and liberation are something we as US residents and citizens are all still striving for," says Gwendolyn VanSant of BRIDGE. “I have been honored to be invited to collaborate on integrating diverse voices and stories that make up our US history in the annual program. Through this honoring of our collective history, the BRIDGE and Shakespeare & Company communities have intentionally united to demonstrate the incomparable value of relationship-building within our Berkshire home."
Throughout the course of the event, food will available for purchase (credit cards will be accepted) on site from SoMa Catering. The Fourth of July Community Celebration will happen rain or shine, and is generously sponsored by David and Natalie Johnsonius Neubert.
The celebration will be followed by a preview performance of Twelfth Night at 6pm in the Tina Packer Playhouse. This classic showcases a rich, affecting, and deeply funny story of longing, love, and laughter which paints Shakespeare at his peak. Twelfth Night is directed by Shakespeare & Company Artistic Director, Allyn Burrows. Tickets are available online at shakespeare.org, or by calling Shakespeare & Company’s box office at (413) 637-3353. The Company’s 2019 Summer Season also includes two outdoor Shakespeare productions, The Taming of the Shrew and The Merry Wives of Windsor, and a special workshop production of Coriolanus; plus Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Waverly Gallery by Kenneth Lonergan, The Children by Tony nominee Lucy Kirkwood, The Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks, and Tony Award nominee Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies.
Food from SOMA Catering is available for purchase; Selections from Amy Ryan Band
1:30pm - 3:00pm
Children's crafts, face painting and photo booth are open to the public for free; Colombian folkloric dance performance
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Speeches, readings and the Declaration
Fourth of July Community Celebration ends
Special Twelfth Night Preview Performance
Founded in 2007, BRIDGE (dba Multicultural BRIDGE) is a grassroots organization dedicated to advancing equity and justice by promoting cultural competence, positive psychology, and mutual understanding and acceptance. The organization acts as a catalyst for change through collaboration, education, training, dialogue, fellowship and advocacy. BRIDGE is a minority and women run non-profit certified by the Office of Supplier Diversity of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (SDP). Their certified competencies are training, education, language access, and multicultural awareness. More information about BRIDGE can be found at https://www.multiculturalbridge.org.
About the Amy Ryan Band
Witnessing Amy’s solo performances at open mic sessions in New York’s Capital Region, guitarist Richard Green saw an opportunity to combine his own blues guitar chops with a gutsy female singer with the potential to lead a great blues band. The Amy Ryan Band was soon born. Melding together Amy’s country blues mojo and Richard’s urban blues and rock sensibilities, this musical partnership is rounded out by bassist Steve Dietemann and new drummer Al Bauman. With a repertoire that includes band adaptations of Amy’s self-penned solo tunes, newly minted originals, and select covers, the Amy Ryan Band rocks the blues.
About SoMa Catering
Providing the Berkshires, Connecticut, and upstate New York with full service catered events, SoMa believes in thoughtful and custom menus inspired by seasonality and locally grown and sourced foods. From boxed picnic lunches to dinner parties and elegant large scale events, they are driven by enhancing celebrations through professional service and simply delicious food. All avenues of SoMa from service to their chefs stand behind their core values of integrity, honesty, sustainability and going above & beyond to make a mark on their events. For more information on SoMa, visit http://www.somacatering.com.
About Shakespeare & Company
Located in the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Shakespeare & Company is one of the leading Shakespeare festivals of the world. Founded in 1978, the organization attracts over 40,000 patrons annually. The Company is also home to an internationally renowned Center for Actor Training and award-winning Education Program. More information is available at www.shakespeare.org.
First, thank you all for the many ways you breathe life in to BRIDGE and support our quest for racial justice and equity! Without you, we could not show up in love and intention towards our collective humanity!
I am writing to tell you we have had a busy June at BRIDGE. We were fortunate enough to partner with MCLA on the Equity and Inclusion Conference. We are so grateful for what Dr. Emily Williams did for our Berkshire County. It was an amazing enlightening time with the launch of the Arts and Humanity Institute and Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond Undoing Racism being on campus. I had the privilege of serving on the opening plenary panel alongside several community leaders and of spending time with my childhood heroine, Nikki Giovanni (I kept a lifesize poster over my bed as a young girl!). Lots of good work ahead in the Berkshires and so glad to have the arts community in partnership.
We had a daylong powerful retreat for Race Amity Day on the second Sunday where we honored Juneteenth and also had meaningful dialogue with several leaders and activists. We enjoyed drum facilitation with Otha Day and a preview of Pipeline.
Gwendolyn was able to lead a couple of meaningful race dialogues as talkbacks with Barrington Stage Co. for America V 2.1. Many community leaders rallied to support intentional conversations after this brilliant play. Many thanks to our many racial justice allies and activities that attended and thank you to Julianne Boyd and Greylock for sponsoring the tickets and talkback stipends.
Also on another front BRIDGE’s racial justice and Gwendolyn’s special Women to Women program integrating gender and race equity conversations in an embodied leadership joined forces with WAM’s Kristen van Ginhoven at a special day training 80 professionals in our Attorney General’s office. We discussed roles of allies and accomplices in the workplace in responding to, navigating and disrupting microaggressions, microaffirmations and more! That was a privilege and definitely courageous conversations being led there by April English and her colleagues.
Another W2W embodied leadership participant, Gloria Escobar, really shone in her leadership this month with the national designation of Juntos Avanzamos for Greylock Credit Union branches in Lee and on West St. Stay tuned to hear more about their service to the Latino Community. Also our Women to Women members had an amazing time with Jacobs Pillow for the amazing Flamenca Dance performance.
Thank you all again for your support and we have so much more to come! See our calendar for wing nights, house parties, racial justice meetings, and more! Stay in touch. Next newsletter, we will share our new Moonlight Mile circle of members and our renewed BRIDGE membership list, don’t forget to renew or join as a BRIDGE sustaining member where your organization can benefit from BRIDGE services and you support our ongoing work.
Looking ahead--join us this Thursday!
BRIDGE's W2W Partners with GCFU to Support Incarcerated Women in the Berkshires
This year, BRIDGE is continuing our work to support incarcerated women of the Berkshires--part of a growing partnership between BRIDGE's Women to Women (W2W) group, Greylock Federal Credit Union (GFCU) and Lindsay Maynard, a local she-ro who supports incarcerated women in staying connected to their families and reintegrating as they transition back home.
In January at the Great Barrington MLK Jr. Day service, BRIDGE invited community members to write heartfelt valentine letters to incarcerated women of the Berkshires, which were later delivered in February. And last month, for a W2W project proposed by BRIDGE CEO, Greylock Federal Credit Union approved and prepared care packages for Mother's day, a project that was generously sponsored by GFCU as part of their Day of Caring during Women's History Month, and coordinated by Cindy Shogry Raimer. Together we packed up 16 care packages with basic self-Care and personal health ítems a woman would appreciate and need and both teams together wrote 35 inspirational letters to be given to incarcerated (or previously incarcerated) women during their return home later in May.
Ari Cameron, BRIDGE Board member and participant, shares these reflections:
"Caseworker Lindsay Maynard visited the BRIDGE office early one April morning to pick up the bags compiled by BRIDGE and GFCU. She named some of the challenges faced by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women when reintegrating into Berkshire County. Lindsay said that the care bags make a difference by providing a few basic necessities and showing the women that they are cared for. She said that there would need to be a wait-list for the 16 bags to make sure they went to the folks who needed them the most. Her work as a caseworker is all about supporting women to reintegrate successfully and reconnect with their families, a cornerstone of which is treating them with respect and dignity. BRIDGE and GFCU contributed to that work with 16 beautiful care bags and many Mother's Day cards and by opening a channel for continued support."
BRIDGE is continuing to collect items for incarcerated women to reintegrate successfully, and there will have several opportunities throughout the year to get involved. We'd love to have more volunteers! For more information, please call or write to the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women To Women Celebrate Mother’s Day together this past Thursday night
While our CEO Gwendolyn was being honored as 2019’s Woman of Achievement at the Berkshire Business and Professional Women of the year award ceremony, news came in that the Dr. W.E.B Du Bois initiative to rename a local Berkshire Hills school (in his hometown) passed in both West Stockbridge and Great Barrington.
The passing of this initiative speaks to the countless Du Bois lectures, celebrations, performances, forums, and much more BRIDGE has hosted. This also speaks to the community’s embrace of this education. Du Bois lived for freedom; he recognized that if some of us are not free, none of us are. He worked tirelessly and brilliantly to create the foundation from which civil rights could grow. What better way to honor that legacy than to inspire the next generations of students?
We are grateful this legislation has passed in two towns and we need the third, Stockbridge, to keep this process going. Please reach out to your networks and call for support for the next town vote at Stockbridge May 20th. Preceding May 20th, we are looking to host a community forum at the Stockbridge Coffee shop. Please stay tuned for how you can show up to this forum to support Stockbridge to understand the importance of Du Bois. More details on this event will be coming soon... you can join Gwendolyn in watching the impressive community discussion here: Berkshire Edge Du Bois coverage
On Monday May 6th BRIDGE through the Race Task Force organized a meeting between the Department of Justice and local superintendents, college and private school representatives, local racial and social justice organization leaders and DA Andrea Harrington. All but two of our Berkshire County superintendents were represented--and all expresses interest. Mildred Duprey de Robles, Conciliation Specialist with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services department presented us with the DOJ’s SPIRIT program. The DOJ CRS was born out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and refined with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Through community, school and consultation services the Department of Justice (DOJ) offers support for the 8 protected categories. SPIRIT stands for “Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together.” The DOJ trains local community members to facilitate student groups to identify and resolve school problems.
This program attracted us because it is student led, has the potential to sustain the work we are doing in schools and complements the work, like A World of Difference, schools are already doing. CBRSD will be the first school district in our area to begin the SPIRIT program by hosting the DOJ to offer a facilitator training for 2019-2020 school facilitators. For close to 10 years BRIDGE has being developing a relationship with the DOJ and the benefits of that are being brought to the community. The feedback from the local superintendents and education leaders was positive and we hope CBRSD’s lead paves the way for all school districts to follow. Additionally Pittsfield and Lenox superintendents have expressed interest and more are gathering information and gauging interest still. June 4th is our first SPIRIT facilitation training.
After the superintendents BRIDGE Race Task Force hosted a meeting for its partners and members to learn about how SPIRIT can be implemented city or county wide. Mildred shared an example of Easthampton’s (MA) experience with the SPIRIT program. After their school district used the SPIRIT program and presented the city with the student-created solutions the city was so impressed they took on the program city-wide. The impact of SPIRIT-CITY has been very positive evidenced by Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle’s offer to promote it.
For more information: Article on Easthampton's SPIRIT Program. We look forward to continuing the discussion of SPIRIT countywide and supporting schools to make use of this free government inclusive support service.
The Woman of Achievement award ceremony capped off a full May 6th. With DOJ meetings in the morning, networking Du Bois town meeting throughout the day, and last minute ceremony details it was a full day to say the least. Around 150 guests helped BRIDGE celebrate Gwendolyn’s award. You can hear this piece on WAMC in anticipation of the event and reflecting on her work at BRIDGE, and click here to see a program from the event.
Close to 20 speakers gave short and poignant invitations to honor Gwendolyn through their personal connection to her. A local author, a banking executive, social justice activists, dancers, co-workers, BRIDGE supporters, family, friends and her husband all shared gratitudes for Gwendolyn and the impact of the work she’s supported for years. Yes! It was beautiful as we represented our diverse community. Yes! we celebrated and Yes! we were back at work early the next day. Click here to read tributes from Christy Daignault, BRIDGE Vice Chair and Development Co-Chair, and John Bissell, President and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union.
The evening was capped off by a beautiful speech Gwendolyn gave connecting integrity, accountability and living for justice as a sustained and sustaining way of being in the world with immediate results and praise being rare. Please find her acceptance speech, Opening The Gates here.
Dear BRIDGE family:
As many of you have heard, I was unanimously chosen as the 2019 Woman of Achievement by Berkshire Business and Professional Women. Our Berkshire chapter has held this tradition for decades and I am honored to be selected for my professional achievements here in the Berkshires and beyond. I can only imagine that the BBPW choice to choose me as this year’s BBPW WOA honoree is not only about me and my work but also representative of their effort to echo the BBPW support of the mission and work of