BRIDGE is closing out its tenth year of celebration and celebrating the fruition, as a co-founder, of a vision of what our community needed. In one way it was to close the gaps of services for new immigrants and very specifically value women and women of color’s labor, contribution and value to our community. But in a larger way it was to foster a sense of humanity, justice and interconnectedness.
Within a year of its founding--having been inspired to finally throw the backpack over the wall by a summit in Worcester for the newly elected Governor Patrick in 2008 illustrating what civic engagement required; looked like in its diverse faces, community roles and backgrounds; and why it was everyone’s calling (You know those events, moments, books, that were truly made just for you. That convention was it for me!)--within a year of BRIDGE’s founding we added three essential groups: Children and Youth; Women to Women; and Towards racial Justice and Equity in the Berkshires. These three programs became the core of BRIDGE’s work and what institutionally informs in a mutual loop the cultural competence training design of our organization. At the time, it felt BRIDGE was everywhere and unfocused to everyone watching and curious and really the goal was to encourage folks to see the interconnectedness. The mission fit the five year olds and the 50 year olds. The core learning objectives were the same. The desire for the conversation to be at school, on the playground, at work and at the dinner table was the only pathway to transformation. BRIDGE held 80 multicultural dinners in 4 years to illustrate the diversity of our community, the value of individual stories and the connection when breaking bread together and listening and seeing.
In 2010 Governor Patrick joined our organization with members of his commission like Richard Chacon who at the time was head of Office of Refugees and Immigrants at Shakespeare & Company and really started us off legitimizing the work that had gone in to the founding of the organization. As BRIDGE develops, the purpose and theory of change remain the same and has challenged everyone in our path both internally and externally to unlearn what they know as truth in our history and present day culture throughout society and their own lived experience and relearn it with an overlay of an equitable lens to create a community that can live and thrive safely; where everyone is seen and heard; and where mutual understanding is the objective along the path to required change.
Fostering and stewarding mutual respect and understanding as it states in our founding mission still remains at the core of the approach. And creating a skill set for that level of authentic reciprocity to be applied is our goal across all aspects that make our society. At our core is our purpose to catalyze change and integration and we have been doing so since our inception.
We aren’t telling a new story, for a long, long time Black Feminists and Black Scholars have been telling us; activists have been fighting; journalists have been reporting; human service has been repairing and treating symptoms of oppression; capitalism and violence; some religious organizations have been praying, repairing and trying to reconcile. Feminists have been telling us. Social scientists & psychologists have been researching and have all the data we could ever need. We are just demanding you listen and make change required now! Educate our children, listen to the youth leadership, stand up for human rights, examine race and class by its design and get to work! Hopeless and helpless is an excuse.
BRIDGE is a community organization and there is an invitation to join extended to you right here and right now. It is made up of the folks that have made the choice to engage. It is minority and women led by Commonwealth standards and by our own internal standards. Not to exclude but to make our very best effort to illustrate and unpack accepted cultural norms of leadership and access and lead by example of what it requires to catalyze change working alongside one another.
Our BRIDGE successes, impact and legacy is too great to capture without another decade of deliberate attention and the even still our work is not done. In fact, in some ways it has just begun and that is where I need you. We need you for financial support, we need you educating yourself and your family and friends, and we need your hours of labor, leadership and expertise.
Our workplaces need you to step in and lead courageously.
Our community members and residents here in Berkshire County need your help. And so do the kids in VA and TX; immigrant workers; disabled adults; members of the LGBTQ community and children and black youth, men and women across this country. So do the white youth reaching for guns and the middle-aged white man dieing of addiction. And so do the historically oppressed groups where generation to generation access, humanity, citizenship can be given or taken away.
The stakes are higher and more visible in our society right now. Under this administration, people in my family are under direct attack or threat- my daughter living with autism, my oldest of the lgbtqia community, my daughter living with an autoimmune disease and my biracial son. There definitely is not a free pass to let someone else decide or do the work-- we have to stand up for what we believe in. I invite you in the most demanding and loving way possible to see what is uncomfortable to see, to name harm and its impact on all of us, to educate yourself and lean in to the possibility of your being the last one to make a difference. And trust the rippling impact. I invite you to join, support, speak up and most importantly educate yourself.
It is not enough to raise money or to sit at the table you or your predecessors have been excluded from, it is to change the guest list, the table and the table setting! I ask you to each use the power of your voice, presence and networks every day for justice! And I ask each of you to consider making a personally meaningful contribution to BRIDGE that sustains us moving forward!