BRIDGE of Western Massachusetts is Named Finalist for Prestigious Everyday Democracy Award
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.
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