As we close out 2023, we want to reflect with you the ROI (return on investment) your collaboration with BRIDGE renders! Whether we are talking about the traditional ROI investment being trust, time, talent and treasures or the newer ROI (ripples of impact) ie. impact in community, individuals and systems, BRIDGE has a ripple story to tell because of YOU!
Across the globe
In January we started off with a global connection that would continue throughout the year as we worked in collaboration with the Trauma Research Foundation with Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk and Licia Sky on their race equity summit in the trauma-informed world. Our work was to create spaces for accountability and care while having these tough conversations disrupting silences around power and privilege in trauma work.
In the Spring we traveled again with Collective Leadership Institute to discuss benchmarking Race equity work and we realized our work and models translate and resonate across the globe.
Finally our CEO was recognized as International Peace Torch Bearer for her tireless work for our collective humanity. Over the summer, our models of caring for our Black and Brown community members were presented as best practices for federal grant administrators across the country.
As we come to the end of our third year serving as co-chairs of the BRIDGE Board, we are incredibly proud of everything that BRIDGE has accomplished. We rapidly scaled up and tripled in size to meet the urgent needs of Black and Brown communities during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been able to sustain this growth to continue to tackle emerging and unmet needs. In 2023, we also saw BRIDGE's work lifted up as a best practice for culturally specific services, trauma-informed services, and cross-sector equity initiatives. After 15 years of fighting just to be adequately resourced, to be lifted up as a role model at a national and even international level is an incredible accomplishment. We also celebrated our 15th Anniversary Gala this year, and heard so many powerful stories and testimonials speaking to BRIDGE's impact and the way it has transformed not just our local community, but many others. We are so proud of BRIDGE's impact and the way that it has inspired equity work across the country, and we cannot wait to see what BRIDGE will accomplish in the years to come!
As we pass the torch to our incoming Board Co-Chairs, we would like to thank Gwendolyn, our Board members, and BRIDGE's staff and volunteers for all your dedication and hard work over the past three years. It has been an honor to serve, and we look forward to continuing to work with and support BRIDGE!
Jeff Lowenstein and Rev. Sloan Letman IV
BRIDGE Board Co-Chairs, 2021-2023
Legacy & Repair
Back home in the Berkshires, we closed the loop on two activities in 2024. One a collaboration to co-name the street in Great Barrington Elizabeth Freeman Way and the other is to finalize the launch of Equity Initiative with our partners at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. We worked for several years on research in leaders of color in Columbia, Berkshire, Northeast Dutchess and Litchfield counties, organizing, listening, designing and strategizing to create a fund at the Foundation that has a dedicated staff member, a community of color steering and advisory committee and over $500,000 to start an endowment, grant making and a leadership academy. Run by community members of color serving organizations that serve communities of color and are led by folks of color! This and the pay equity initiative are outcomes of our ILC inaugural cohort work, a few white accomplices along with the expansion of our internal BRIDGE programs!
Elizabeth Adams (Vice Chair, Board Liaison for Development Committee):
Incredible and I’m really honored to be here. I am on the board and have been involved with BRIDGE for seven years and I want to tell you about the impact circle that I am a part of. We are a group of people, there are six of us who have given at what you call the capacity level which means multi-year commitments to support capacity building and as you just heard, and as you have seen, BRIDGE is doing just incredible work in every space, every where there is a need, BRIDGE is there and we are under resourced.
My parents did not grow up with a lot of money. They are born in a depression. My mom and dad worked very hard and as you know, we benefited from a huge amount of white privilege that was like a gust of wind in the sails, we are getting more than we deserve. So for me, Gwendolyn asked why do I give to BRIDGE? There is a lot of pain at looking at that history and a lot of harm that has already been done and also there is a lot of joy in moving the energy. To me, money is a kind of energy and I am very interested in moving it where it needs to be - to do good. I have gotten so much from working with Gwendolyn and BRIDGE. I am a recovery perfectionist- working with BRIDGE I learned to learn from my mistakes and to work with the community with accountability. That perfectionism is a part of white supremacy and institutionalized dominance that creates harm in the world and also creates a lot of mental illness in white identified people. I am just here to say that I received so much more than I gave. I really ask you, we really need people to give at a level that you can and we are looking for people to join the IMPACT circle if you can. We need you and it will be a gift and an opportunity for you I assure you. I would love to talk to anyone about it. firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you Gwendolyn.
Steadying our ship
As we stated back in 2020 when the pandemic hit there was not a sense of getting back to normal that was going to serve our mission– too many were already left behind– we would have to fight to keep the change we manifested in those harsh early pandemic times and create new pathways. And so BRIDGE did just that. We are emerging from three years of incredible internal growth and change having tripled our budget in 2019-2020 and maintained it and developed new funding streams, internal systems and national partnerships to sustain the work all the while centering the voices and leaders of color in our community, continuing mutual aid and growing our solidarity economy!
Catalyst. Love. Impact.
This last year we captured testimonials for you to witness in our BRIDGE documentary and we want you to play with our newly updated timeline to learn about BRIDGE’s journey. Find spaces you may have forgotten about ~and let us know if we forgot a milestone! We could not have done this work all of these years without an intentional community of care and trust.
Thank you for making the 15th anniversary gala celebration a success, we will see you again in 5 years! We hope you continue to enjoy the testimonials and photos and videos from that day! Several of our BIPOC vendors and presenters have been invited back to perform or share their gifts with the Pillow (and other partners) in the next season. We love following the ripples of impact!
Hey everyone, I’m Michael Bobbitt, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director. If you don’t know about the Mass Cultural Council, we are a state agency that supports arts, music, and culture in the whole state. Multicultural BRIDGE, Jacob’s Pillow, I do wanna say thank you all, for paying your taxes- we appreciate that. Today has been a day filled with arts and music, so I am full. There is nothing like arts, music and food that brings us all together. That’s such a great word for what the BRIDGE is doing- bringing us all together to do this work and to do this work is hard.
When I first got to the Mass Cultural Council, Gwendolyn was there doing some consulting work with the agency. She held my hand, she held the other councilman's hands and said that BRIDGE is going to make sure that the money we are giving out is given out in the most equitable way possible because of Gwendolyn. So on that note...I know that this is a fundraiser, so I hope you are all digging way deep to support Gwendolyn and BRIDGE. Gwendolyn takes cash, she takes checks, she takes credit cards, deeds of homes and land, liquidated IRAs, whatever you’d like to give her, give it to her so she can continue to do this work. We want BRIDGE for 15 or 30 more years. Thank you very much.
imagining our future
We have taken creative bold steps with ARP, Block Grant, COVID Funding and opened up a wellness center for a safe space of healing for community members of color. The Solidarity Meeting House. We have a library where folks can read the history often hidden, now banned in some places or sensationalized. We will have our kitchen because food is healing, food is medicine and food is culture. We will revive our cultural dinners, share our cultural stories and break bread together. We will also educate and learn to preserve our food we are growing in our Solidarity Farm and Gardens. Even under renovation, these spaces have been filled with joy, healing and envisioning our future for months now. Please invest here. We also have our Hamsa Home for culturally specific transitional supported housing for victims of violence and crime for respite or transitional housing. Filled with warmth and love.
Welcome Wes Gadson and Michael Obasohan, BRIDGE Co-chairs elect 2024- a welcome interview
1. What inspires you about being part of BRIDGE?
MO: What inspires me about being part of BRIDGE is the intentional "boots on the ground" work from the executive Director and the staff. Being part of BRIDGE and seeing the commitment to give voice to women and communities of color excites and rejuvenates me to believe we can together create a community these two groups can thrive in. What also inspires me is that BRIDGE not only holds community partners accountable, but its staff and the board as well. To me, this sets BRIDGE at the top of my list of equity and social justice advocates.
WG: Seeing action that leads to change. Knowing I am part of an organization which moves past racism and supports the people of the community. BRIDGE is not an organization that feeds people fish but teaches them to fish.
2. What do you see as BRIDGE's success story this Year?
MO: The partnership with the City of Pittsfield in welcoming the new Haitian families into our Pittsfield community is a success story. The City was grateful to have BRIDGE as an organization come and help with cultural relevant/humility resources. Staff at BRIDGE helped create language access and helped support a needs assessment with the families. Early mornings and late nights were our best friends but staff at BRIDGE handled themselves with grace and humility. Many organizations came to support and aid the families. It speaks volumes to the community we are trying to build.
WG: This year our volunteers were able to help us feed people healthy vegetables thanks to programs like the solidarity garden and inspire them to engage in healthy eating and try things outside of their comfort zone. By giving them the resources, like recipes and sample meals, they are able to live stronger and longer lives.
3. What invitation will you make for folks reading this as a part of our annual report?
MO: I would invite folks to get involved in the work of equity and social justice. If one voice is silenced then we as a community are silenced. Let the work of BRIDGE show how we can support and care for one another no matter our identities. The work starts with our own individual self. Let's get to work!
WG: No matter the number of volunteers and resources, there is always a cost to helping others. No matter the size of the support, your contribution will allow us to continue to provide for the less fortunate. Support makes it possible for Bridge to continue teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish.
We wish you all a happy new year and ask that you consider making a sustaining pledge to BRIDGE so we can respond to incidents in our community well resourced and prepared. Like the pandemic, BRIDGE sprung into action with the resettled Haitian refugees late October and we could not do that without our community supporting us all along! Essential dialogues about Gaza and Israel, school and law enforcement incidents, volunteer and donor training in race equity and justice and more await us as we begin 2024.
With your support BRIDGE can continue to serve as a catalyst and an (inter)national model with love and justice at its core. Together we can be the change making all the necessary ripples! i.e. all the good trouble as one of our most beloved elders, John Lewis, used to say! Good trouble.
Thank you for your annual pledge. And for keeping up with us here at BRIDGE. Thank you for being a part of our beloved community.
Gwendolyn and the BRIDGE Team
“To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.”
P.s. Last (but not least!) thought – our youth program was robust this summer filled with joy and new activities. If you follow us on Instagram, you were able to play along. One of the newer partnerships this year was with Mass Hire which allowed us to triple our youth corps engagement. Some of the youth leaders opted to revive the Berkshire Mosaic/On the Bridge project with Kate Abbott at By the Way Berkshires. Please find two stories here: Zazu and Melissa…. More to come!
Today is the 3rd day of Kwanzaa. Ujima. That symbolizes Collective Work and Responsibility…join us.
Multicultural BRIDGE helps to improve the lives of community members throughout the Berkshires, and provides consultation and training to groups and businesses across the state and throughout the country.