Kate Abbott | BTW Berkshires: Read the full article
In bright sun on a mountaintop, four dancers swirl bright skirts and open their arms to the open ridges and a blue fall sky. They are performing folkloric dances from Mexico, Costa Rica and Ecuador, they explain, dances from the countries where they have family and roots, though they live here.
Four young women from Latinos Unidas de los Berkshires perform on the outdoor Leir stage at Jacob’s Pillow — and after them women their mothers’ generation from Patricia Cambi Dance, all in celebration of the woman who has helped them to find home, friendship and affirmation, and helped their children to grow.
Today BRIDGE is celebrating 15 years in action. Founder and C.E.O. Gwendolyn Van Sant has grown a creative place and a center of community that has reshaped Great Barrington and the Berkshires, people around her will testify today, and has offered resources and strength and roots far beyond the county.
This is the community you have made.’ — Sylvia Soria to Gwendolyn Van Sant, founder of BRIDGE
Silvia Soria, coordinator of BRIDGE’s Women to Women program, says to her, look around today — ‘This is the community you have made.’
On Sunday afternoon, many of the people Van Sant has touched across the years have gathered for BRIDGE’s gala, Catalyst. Love. Impact. The intent, listening crowd who have come together become a living embodiment of how far and wide BRIDGE’s reach has grown around the world.
Star Nii, an internationally acclaimed percussionist from Ghana, opens the day with the warm clap of his hands on his drum heads, and the wind stirs a high tone from his chimes.
Another drum sounds like a heartbeat, and Sunder Ashni, vision builder and steward at Mumbet Freedom Farm, sings a blessing, gathering in the crowd to call out the word for love in many languages.
Warmly and openly she invokes Mohican community and elders on their homelands, and she calls for a sense of connection, one heart, one mind, in the words of the Haudenosaunee, people of the long house, one of the oldest participatory democracies on earth.
‘Think about who you belong to, whose you are, who you are responsible to.’ — Sunder Ashni, vision builder and steward at Mumbet Freedom Farm
She invites her listeners to rest a hand on their heart and think of the people and places close to them … and then turn to someone near them and share what they’re thinking.
“Think about who you belong to, whose you are, who you are responsible to,” she says.
And then a traveler to Ghana picks up the mic. Jeffrey Allen Peck, the great grandson of W.E.B. DuBois, has performed as his great grandfather in the country where DuBois lived at the end of his life and is buried.
Peck is traveling the world right now, he says, performing as his great grandfather in the new play Justice on Trial by Dr. Chad Everette Lawson Cooper and actor Alicia Robinson Cooper, and he speaks warmly of a growing relationship with BRIDGE across more than eight years, and a continuing legacy of activism.
“It’s hard to talk about someone like my great grandfather and all he’s done,” Peck says, “and when I think of all the people he has brought together — I think of his work with Crisis Magazine.”
Crisis is the official publication of the NAACP, which DuBois co-founded. He created the magazine in 1910 and acted as editor through 1934. Peck sees his work as instrumental — DuBois created a forum where Black folk across the country could read about people in their community and become inspired.
“Gwendolyn is doing the same,” he said, “all over the country.”
‘My great grandfather brought people together … and Gwendolyn is doing the same, all over the country.’ — Jeffrey Allen Peck, great grandson of W.E.B. DuBois