FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 15, 2020
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Sandra Rodriguez, Everyday Democracy Communications Dept., firstname.lastname@example.org; (860) 712-4047
Dr. Emily Williams, BRIDGE Senior Education & Engagement Director,email@example.com; (413) 394-4305
NATIONWIDE– BRIDGE, Multicultural BRIDGE was one of four finalists (of 64 total nominations nationwide) for the 2019 Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award given by Everyday Democracy to individuals and organizations that work toward creating spaces for people of all backgrounds to talk and work together for strong, equitable communities.
BRIDGE (Berkshire Resources for the Integration of Diverse Groups and Education) is a grassroots organization dedicated to advancing equity and justice by promoting cultural competence, positive psychology, and mutual understanding and acceptance. A Commonwealth certified minority and women-run organization based in the rural Berkshires, BRIDGE acts as a catalyst for change through education, training, dialogue, fellowship, and advocacy. For over 10 years, BRIDGE has used a collaborative approach to actively lift up marginalized voices in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and across the country.
Martha McCoy, Executive Director of Everyday Democracy shared, “BRIDGE is making a huge difference in a small community by bridging gaps and bringing people together across sectors, backgrounds, and all forms of difference. By supporting meaningful connection and collaboration, BRIDGE is demonstrating the kind of leadership that creates spaces where everyone can have a voice and play a role in creating a thriving community. Gwendolyn VanSant and her team live the values that Paul and Joyce Aicher stood for – inclusion, racial equity, relationships across difference, and voice for all. We are proud to recognize BRIDGE’s work.”
In addition to this honor, BRIDGE has received numerous industry and leadership awards including the 2015 Berkshire Trendsetter award for Non-Profit Impact. Co-Founding Director and CEO Gwendolyn VanSant was unanimously chosen as the 2019 “Woman of Achievement” by Berkshire Business and Professional Women. VanSant has been invited to provide best practices in Cultural Competency training to the U.S. Department of Justice. BRIDGE’s Cultural Competency work is also cited as a best practice in the textbook Understanding Hate Crimes: Acts, Motives, Offenders, Victims, and Justice by Carolyn Turpin-Petrosino.
With its holistic approach to promoting racial justice and equity as well as civic participation, BRIDGE’s work has led to systemic shifts and changes in policy toward a more just, safe, and equitable society. The organization's innovative approach to grassroots activism continues to create new partnerships and win community hearts and minds. BRIDGE’s current and recent initiatives include:
· BRIDGE’s Women to Womenprogram helps Berkshire women leaders from immigrant communities navigate transitions and connect to resources for mutual support and professional development.
· BRIDGE’s “Happiness Toolbox” camp promotes cultural and multilingual literacy for children of all backgrounds.
· BRIDGE’s Towards Racial Justice and Equity in the Berkshires campaign convenes area groups including the BRIDGE Race Task Force to act as a hub for critical community responses to bias and hate crimes, education, and outreach. The has reactivated the powerful Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP.
· BRIDGE spearheaded the Great Barrington Trust Policy campaign, a citizen-initiated effort which ensures that all residents in Great Barrington are fully protected by the local police and town government. The town passed the policy in 2017.
· BRIDGE leads the Not in Our County - Berkshires campaign in collaboration with the DOJ USAO (Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office) to unify the county to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all.
BRIDGE hosts monthly racial justice meetings in collaboration with faith leaders; offers Cultural Competency training to businesses, nonprofits, organizations, and schools; and assists businesses in making institutional changes for racial justice to better support clients, employees, and communities as a whole.
“It is an honor to be recognized by Everyday Democracy and The Paul J. Aicher Foundation for our work,” VanSant says. “At BRIDGE, we are committed to embodying new practices of recognizing, disrupting, and undoing oppression through education, advocacy, and leveraging our many resources for positive social change. We work alongside others and work across differences in identity, perspective, and politics to prioritize safety and belonging. These are things we can all practice doing in our neighborhoods, workplace communities, and across sectors. In the time that we are living in now, we must strive towards equity and justice however we can. We are stronger together.”
To reach BRIDGE, visit multiculturalbridge.org
BRIDGE Photos Attached.
The winners of the award was Happy Johnson and Arthur Johnson of the Lower Ninth Ward Campaign for Sustainable Engagement and Development, in New Orleans, La.
About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy supports organizing across the country by bringing diverse groups of people together, helping them structure and facilitate community dialogue on pressing issues, and training them to use a racial equity lens to understand longstanding problems and possible solutions. We help people create the spaces where they can build skills to bring difficult topics to light and address them effectively over the long term. Our work helps communities move conversation into action, and action into lasting positive change.
Everyday Democracy is the primary project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation. The Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award was first awarded in 2017 to Generation Justice in Albuquerque, N.M., and last year was awarded to Beth Broadway of InterFaith Works of Central New York.
Press Photos of 2018 WAM Pipeline reading can be found at:
LENOX, MA (October 7, 2019) - WAM Theatre and BRIDGE are delighted to announce a series of innovative community engagement programs surrounding their collaboration on PIPELINE by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Dawn M. Simmons. The production will play from October 24 - November 9 at Shakespeare and Company’s Bernstein Theatre in Lenox. PIPELINE was recently announced by American Theatre Magazine as one of the ten most produced plays this season.
PIPELINE is the third partnership between WAM and BRIDGE. WAM and BRIDGE first collaborated in 2013 on WAM’s production of EMILIE, connecting as two women-run organizations focused on activism and engaging BRIDGE’s Youth Leaders and Women To Women Group in pre- and post- play discussions as well as trips to the show. They then produced FACING OUR TRUTH, along with Berkshire based artist and educator Jamuna Yvette Sirker, in 2016 in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin, to address violence and the negative impact of racism on us all. And now, this year, they are partnering on PIPELINE, unpacking the bias in education that leads to the data-proven, systematically-designed engagement of Black families in the justice system—especially when a young Black male is involved.
“BRIDGE is thrilled to collaborate with WAM Theatre again, this time on Dominique Morisseau’s brilliant play which is advancing a much-needed national conversation on the crisis of the Black family in the U.S.” said BRIDGE Founding Director and CEO Gwendolyn VanSant.
The WAM/BRIDGE programming, funded in part by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and the Brabson Foundation, includes:
“Through the arts, we look forward to creating more local opportunities and access for authentic discussion around the stark ethnic disparities that exist for Black families as we identify solutions through activism for all educators, parents and students,” Gwendolyn VanSant explained. “PIPELINE helps us enter these conversations with courage.”
In the play, Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher is committed to her students, and desperate to give her only son opportunities her students will never have. When a controversial incident in his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. PIPELINE is Dominique Morisseau’s beautiful and deeply moving story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future without turning her back on the community that made him who he is.
Through the story of one young Black student’s success and challenges, we share the experience of a Black family facing long-standing cultural and systemic barriers.” explains VanSant, “The school to prison ‘pipeline’ affects not only the poor; the constant pressure and trauma of racism can touch any family at any moment.”
The in-school workshop series will provide the 8th grade students of Nessacus Regional Middle School with two classes prior to coming to the performance and one afterwards. These classes will introduce the students to concepts of racial bias, micro and macro aggressions, and stereotyping. Discussion and creative drama techniques will provide them with strategies to embrace individual responsibility and to facilitate community change.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS
PIPELINE Community Development workshops will be presented in multiple professional development and public events across Berkshire County. This project had its debut at BRIDGE’s Race Amity Day on the Green in Lee this past June and will be presented at up-coming district-wide teacher professional development days to extend the themes and power of PIPELINE out of the theatre.
The pre-show workshop at the theatre, co-led by Lia Russell-Self and JV Hampton-VanSant will engage students personally with the themes of the play, as well as the technical side of theatre. “Often, in the theatre, we are eager to take on shows that are asking smart questions, but then we leave our audiences alone with their personal responses to the questions raised,” Russell-Self explained. “In this outreach model, we are asking our audience to immediately engage with the themes of the show through devised theatre and social justice practices. It’s important to have these stories live communally beyond the theatre in order to engender civic dialogue around the tough questions PIPELINE raises.”
POST-SHOW CONVERSATION SERIES
Every performance will be followed by a post show discussion. Curated by Gwendolyn VanSant and facilitated by members of BRIDGE, the post show conversations will range from speaking with the artists involved in the production to speakers such as Brian House and Andrea Harrington from the Berkshire District Attorney’s office to Dr. Tracey Benson, author of Unconscious Bias in Schools who will speak after the November 7th performance. Local subject matter experts, production team, beneficiaries and other speakers will participate.
BENEFICIARY SELECTION PROCESS
In keeping with its double philanthropic mission, WAM Theatre will be donating a portion of the box office proceeds from PIPELINE to its 18th and 19th beneficiaries - the Harmony Homestead & Wholeness Center and the Women of Color Giving Circle. As part of the partnership with BRIDGE, a member of the BRIDGE team, Stephanie Wright, joined the WAM Beneficiary Committee in the process for selecting these two beneficiaries. To date the company has donated more than $65,700 to 17 local and global organizations taking action for women and girls in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training and more.
Additionally, PIPELINE is a co-production with The Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA, where the play will be performed from March 5-29, 2020.
For more information on WAM Theatre and PIPELINE, visit: wamtheatre.com/pipeline/
For more information on BRIDGE, visit: www.multiculturalbridge.org
AT A GLANCE
October 24-November 9, 2019
by Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Dawn M. Simmons
at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
Mature language. Recommended for ages 13+.
A portion of box office proceeds will be donated to the Harmony Homestead & Wholeness Center and the Women of Color Giving Circle.
Preview tickets to the October 24 & 25 performances are $10-$30. Tickets to all other performances start at $30. In celebration of WAM’s 10th Anniversary Season WAM will offer ten $10 tickets at every single Mainstage performance during the 2019 season on a first-come, first-served basis.
No Berkshire, Senior, Teacher or Military Discount
Student tickets are available for $15 each and may be purchased over the phone at 413-637-3353 or in person at the Shakespeare & Company Box Office. Student tickets are not available for purchase online.
Please note all sales are final. No refunds available. Patrons may exchange tickets up to 48 hours before curtain – not including special event one-night performances. No refunds or exchanges for already discounted tickets. Discounts are not available on the 10th anniversary $10 discounted tickets in Section D.
Thursday, October 24 at 7:30pm (Preview)
Friday, October 25 at 12:30pm (Student Matinee, limited seats available to the public)
Friday, October 25 7:30p (Preview)
Saturday, October 26 at 7:30pm (Opening)
Sunday, October 27 at 2pm
Wednesday, October 30 at 12:30pm (Student Matinee, limited seats available to the public)
Thursday, October 31 at 7:30pm
Friday, November 1 at 7:30pm
Saturday, November 2 at 7:30pm
Sunday, November 3 at 2pm
Monday, November 4 at 12:30pm (Student Matinee, limited seats available to the public)
Thursday, November 7 at 7:30pm
Friday, November 8 at 7:30pm
Saturday, November 9 at 2pm
Saturday, November 9 at 7:30pm
BRIDGE is a grassroots organization dedicated to catalyzing change and integration through promoting mutual respect and understanding.
Since 2007, BRIDGE’s mission has been “promoting mutual understanding and respect among diverse groups serving as a resource to both local institutions and the community at large. We serve as catalysts for change and integration through collaboration, education, training, dialogue, fellowship and advocacy." Our core values are accountability, celebration, learning, collaboration, and equity.
Through a 360 degree perspective on community and civic participation, BRIDGE has designed a holistic approach to community and public health. BRIDGE's goal is to impact hearts, minds and behaviors that result in positive cultural shifts and systemic changes in policy, law and practice towards a more just, safe and equitable society.
Services include access to cultural literacy and cultural competence training; diversity equity and inclusion consulting, facilitation; youth leadership; multicultural education; parent engagement and education; civil rights and social justice forums and advocacy with diverse groups. We facilitate cultural competence programming in schools and institutions to promote equity and to educate on systemic racism and cultural barriers, and are designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a vendor in the Supplier Diversity Program in the spirit of the Affirmative Market Campaign.
For more information, www.multiculturalbridge.org
ABOUT WAM THEATRE
WAM Theatre is a professional theatre company based in Berkshire County, MA, that operates at the intersection of arts and activism. WAM creates theatre for gender equity and has a vision of theatre as philanthropy.
In fulfillment of its philanthropic mission, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds from their Mainstage productions to carefully selected beneficiaries. Since WAM’s founding in 2010, they have donated more than $65,700 to 17 local and global organizations taking action for gender equity in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training, and more.
In addition to Mainstage productions and special events, WAM’s activities include innovative community engagement programs and the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series. To date, WAM has provided paid work to more than 400 theatre artists, the majority of whom are female-identifying.
As a civic organization that embraces intersectional feminism (feminism that acknowledges how multiple forms of discrimination overlap), WAM understands that to address one piece of systemic discrimination means we have to address them all. This is on-going personal and professional work at WAM for the staff and board.
WAM Theatre has been widely recognized for having a positive impact on cultural and community development in the region. WAM is the recipient of the Creative Economy Standout Berkshire Trendsetter Award and previously, was named Outstanding Philanthropy Corporation of the Year by the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kristen van Ginhoven, WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, was honored by the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association (BTCA) with the prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented at the discretion of the BTCA Board to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County.
For more information, visit www.WAMTheatre.com