Dear BRIDGE supporters:
All that you touch you change, all that you change changes you? ”
We finished up the summer and started Fall with a sprint!
It has been a great fulfilling month as we flexed our core value of collaboration and joined our partners and friends in moving the needle on justice and inclusion in our community.
Indigenous Peoples Day:
We were able to show up in partnership with the Town of Great Barrington Du Bois Legacy Committee and drafted, approved and showed up for the vote to shift to Indigenous Peoples Day. If you did not make it to the town meeting, please view the video:
50th anniversary of the Du Bois Boyhood Site
Along the same intentions for reparations, The Du Bois Legacy Committee, UMASS and the Town of Great Barrington are honoring the 50th anniversary of the Du Bois Boyhood Homesite. BRIDGE Is a proud-sponsor along with 15 community partners on the event. Our TRJ Du Bois Campaigners are in full swing! Please join us for a beautiful day. #allhandsin
We are looking forward to the production of Pipeline! We have Dr. Tracy Benson with the book launch for educators on bias in schools at the Nov.7th Pipeline show with TRJ-South. We have District Attorney Andrea Harrington and Race Task Force member and DA Office Community Engagement Officer Bryan House joining for two talkbacks. Taconic High School Jamal Ahumada of new Black Studies.
Read the article here!
Mass MoCA Feminist Library Book Club for Cauleen Smith exhibit
Thanks to the BRIDGE TRJ members who joined the discussion at MassMoCA about Parable of the Sower. Please see our agenda designed by Gwendolyn.
Upcoming Book Club Events:
SJIA Garden Party!
Thanks to Steve & Diana! We raised $2700 at their beautiful garden party and welcome a few new volunteers. BRIDGE board treasurer Steve and his wife Diana worked with the BRIDGE team of staff and volunteers while our CEO and Community Engagement Coordinator with Susan Witt of Center for New Economics were in Austin, TX at a women, money and power conference! Stay tuned of how you can leverage your resources for positive social impact on women, girls and others historically oppressed!
Apple Squeeze, Construct Walk & Flash Mob Dance, Harvest of Hope, Latino Festival of the Berkshires
Special thanks to all of our volunteers who tabled, did outreach and preparation and were stellar ambassadors for BRIDGE! With your help, we can celebrate and collaborate the important work of our partners and promote our Not in the County campaign! Thanks so much!
In the berkshires community
Stephanie is hosting a book read of Beverly Tatum’s 20th anniversary edition of Why are all the black kids sitting together? in the Central Berkshire Regional District and their feeder towns. Find that agenda on our website and read along!
Vanessa arranged for us to share the Statewide Cultural Appreciation Week with the Great Barrington Courthouse. Our Women to Women and staff made an authentic dish from our cultures and family traditions for a potluck with all courthouse staff and a few retired Ones. We shared job roles for both BRIDGE and Courthouse members. We discussed immigration, race and poverty issues that the court sees daily. And they joined us in signing the pledge. We were joined by local attorneys as well that supported the process with good questions and reflections.. A small step towards a deeper collaboration. A member of the GB courthouse will join our Race Task Force Coalition!
The day before, County Police Chiefs received Gwendolyn of the Race Task Force and Dr. Leticia Haynes of Williams College (newest Race Task Force member) for a presentation and discussion regarding campaign, training, collaboration and more! Stay tuned!
Keep an eye out for some links on social media to an InsideHigherEd article on cultural competency with Dr. Emily Williams and Gwendolyn, Kristen (WAM Theatre) and Gwendolyn’s Blog about Pipeline, and some of our CEO articles will be surfacing again soon (it has been a busy summer on collaborative written pieces!) These posts are meant to support your journey towards equity and liberation for all.
In March 2019 we had the pleasure of hosting the book launch Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Dr. Saidiya Hartman. We are proud to know that our Advisory Council Member has been acknowledged as a MacArthur Fellow, ie. She is a recipient of the “Genius” award. We are proud to know her and benefit from her work! Watch the videohere!
Congratulations for Stephanie Wright (BRIDGE) and Karen Murray (BRIDGE women to women and RMV) to be accepted in to the Women’s Fund Of Western Massachusetts Leadership for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI)at UMASS. Thanks to Moonlight Mile for resources to sponsor.
Thank you for reading our updates!
Many thanks to our sustaining donors that make a meaningful monthly pledge!
You can always support our urgent response and reparations fund for those at the target of bias incidents and responses. We will notify you always when we are responding in urgent response and/or offering reparations funds. Send with a memo and note so it is applied correctly.
If you shop Amazon, join Amazon Smile!
If you are having a birthday, crowdfund for a day or a week on Facebook!
Join our monthly meetings and actions and follow your pledge commitment to being active positive bystanders.
Spread the good word about your experiences and we would love it if you would send us testimonials regarding your BRIDGE experience.
Wishing you all the best,
The BRIDGE team
"Kindness eases Change.
Dear BRIDGE supporters:
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
It has been a full joyful summer. Happiness Toolbox 2019 was full of children and youth mentoring one another, sharing their gifts and skills. We exceeded enrollment and had the most returning families and the most youth leaders in our 10-year history! We drummed with Otha Day, read and imagined ourselves as entrepreneurs with author Ty Jackson. We explored wellness with Kijana Rose in yoga and the study of crystals. We explored computer coding and human coding with DNA with Tim and JV. And our youth leaders led us in sports, Spanish, dance, art, and HANDLE. Thanks to YES (Youth Empowerment in Sports with Williams College students and alumni) for partnering with our youth! We piloted at Luna Buho Farm in Cheshire a two-day Happiness Toolbox program and look forward to even more collaboration next Spring. Email us to find out how you can be involved. Additionally, we were so glad and grateful to be hosted by First Congregational Church in Great Barrington for the first time and look forward to collaborations to come! For example, keep an eye out for BRIDGE Multicultural Dinners returning for the community at First Congregational Church in October! Details coming soon!
Last month, NPC Berkshires hosted our bias awareness workshop and we were glad to host BCC, Lee Bank, Berkshire Natural Resources and friends from Franklin County. Nice to have new groups join the dialogue on how to build stronger, more inclusive workforces.
In case you missed it, our Director, Gwendolyn, and Chief Coe of Dalton, MA shared on the national Not In Our County website about our Berkshire campaign. We were invited to hear Cornelius Minor speak and I loved this quote that he offered CBRSD teachers:
Engagement is social, emotional and intellectual readiness to fail in public. ~Cornelius Minor.
At this beginning of the year launch meeting, CBRSD did their launch of signing the pledge offering to interrupt bias and intolerance at their schools.
Unfortunately, some of our neighbors in North Adams were targets of race incidents and city councilors and Mayor have been in conversation with residents and so forth. We plan to host a September community meeting with DOJ USAO office reps and DOJ CRS reps and we hope you join us for our September Race Task Force for more dialogue and planning. We are proud to welcome new Race Task Force members, Kristen van Ginhoven and Lia Russell Self, from WAM Theatre and Bryan House from our Berkshire District Attorney Office. #allhandsin. Call to action!
And another great time was had by all staff and volunteers who participated, our Director had the awesome opportunity to support planning A Day of Action with Yo-Yo Ma and we built a table in community. Find us here on Yo-Yo Ma’s Instagram and also our photos here on our BRIDGE facebook page here. JV made great new fourth-generation BRIDGE T’s for the event!
Lastly, we are gearing up for the WAM production of Pipeline and you can hear Directors speak about the value of the program here. We had our second planning retreat in Gloucester, MA last week as we prepare for the launch. Please sign up for a show and also join us in dialogue about microaggressions and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Heartbeat Update: We made our Match- woo hoo! $7,869 | We are so grateful for the generosity in our community. Our resilient connections are growing stronger every day! We had a surprise visit from our original Development Coordinator and founding partner in Race Task Force, Rev. Natalie Shiras! She is so proud of the work we have done to grow BRIDGE’s roots and she carries our work on the West Coast. Thank you, Natalie, for the legacy of white accompliceship!
Tim Likarish, Lily Swartz and Grace Church offered this Heartbeat Match as we refer to our Women to Women and Youth Leadership & Education programs as the pulse of our organization! Together they generously contributed $7,000 and we crowdfunded through our networks and raised $7,869 with your help totaling $14,869! Thank you so much for collectively caring for the happiness and well-being of our women and youth in our community. Please see the photos!
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language.
That may be the measure of our lives.” ~Toni Morrison
Wishing you all the best,
THE BRIDGE team
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 email@example.com.
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.