In Pittsfield, Diversity fest lets court system 'lean into difficult conversations'
By Jenn Smith , The Berkshire Eagle
PITTSFIELD — Despite the morning's cold gray weather, the downtown Pittsfield court complex had a celebratory feel to it Monday, as the Massachusetts Trial Court system kicked off its inaugural Cultural Appreciation Week.
Food tents were erected outside the Berkshire Superior Courthouse facing Park Square, filling the air with the scents of Caribbean, Italian and Greek spices. Inside the building, songs, dances and speeches were performed by local children and community members as court staff, state officials and other visitors intently listened. After a tour with staff in the Berkshire Probate and Family Court building, students and staff had lunch together, sampling everything from slow-cooked Puerto Rican-style chicken and rice, to Greek spanakopita, a savory pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese.
While the special event allowed people to sample the various flavors of cultural cuisine offered by Pittsfield restaurants, it also gave participants a taste of why it's important to have awareness of and celebrate cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and gender diversity of the courts and their local citizens.
Reid Middle School eighth-graders Wesley Ahoussi, Steve Patch and Rahmel Smith — all members of the school's Justice League for diversity and inclusion — said they felt events like this were important. Asked why, they answered "respect," "equality" and "empathy," respectively.
They and their classmates, Tatyaina Curtis-Perez and Gracie Friend, said the day also helped them gain a better view and understanding of the court system and how it works.
"Things like this help you learn a lot of new things," Friend said.
"It kind of gives us an experience about criminal justice and what injustice is," Curtis-Perez said.
Posted Monday, September 3, 2018 4:09 pm
By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle
GREAT BARRINGTON — The W.E.B. Du Bois honors keep coming, after decades of what scholars, local activists and some town officials have said was a pernicious lack of honors for the towering native son.
To robust applause, the town unanimously agreed Monday to create a permanent town committee to promote and preserve the legacy of Du Bois, the African-American scholar, civil rights movement architect and writer who tackled civil and economic rights at the turn of the century and beyond.
"As we move ahead together in community may we heed Du Bois' teachings and grow in solidarity and purpose as a town and with our neighbors," Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant, co-chair of the Du Bois Legacy Committee, wrote in a statement issued after the board meeting. Hampton VanSant is president and CEO of local nonprofit Multicultural BRIDGE.
The board established the committee on the 55th anniversary of Du Bois' death in Ghana in 1963.
Hampton VanSant, as well as co-chair Randy Weinstein of the Du Bois Center on South Main Street, were co-chairs of the Du Bois 150th Festival, which launched in January and stretched into the summer.