NAACP Berkshire Branch President Dennis Powell is both one of the organizers of the march and one of the speakers to talk at the rally.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It was an "unprecedented" time in 1941 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation and called for a world "founded upon four essential human freedoms."
It's been 76 years since then and the resolve of the Berkshires remains strong toward securing exactly that.
On Saturday, hundreds will be marching down North Street to stand up for those four freedoms President Franklin D. Roosevelt cited: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
"There was interest from several groups to bring the community together to stand up for their freedoms and rights," said Megan Whilden, one of the organizers. "And to really stand up against the resurgence of bigotry and prejudice."
It was just about a month ago when the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Berkshire Central Labor Council, and the Berkshire Brigades started talking about making such a public stand. The idea came up for a march and since then it has taken off. Now some 100 local organizations have pledged their support, including some 20 elected officials, and the group is expecting at least 500 people to join.
The rally kicks off 12:30 on Saturday, starting at St. Joseph's Church on North Street. At 1, the crowd will march down North to First, waving flags and banners, and end at First Church of Christ on Park Square. Inside the church, a lineup of close to a dozen speakers will provide remarks — including U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and James Roosevelt III, grandson of FDR.
"We definitely wanted a wide range of speakers to represent our community," Whilden said.
Beyond Markey and Roosevelt, speakers include attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a member of the state Commission on the Status of Women; Dennis Powell, president of the Berkshire NAACP branch; Elizabeth Recko-Morrison, the 2015 labor person of the year; Eleanore Velez of Berkshire Community College's Multicultural Center; Ethan Zukerman, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Civic Media; and spoken word poets from Miss Hall's School. The Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross of First Baptist Church will be master of ceremonies.
Whilden said the group is trying to limit speakers to three minutes to keep the program under 45 minutes.
Concurrently, the three main organizations have formed a Four Freedoms Coalition. So far, all eyes of that new group have been focused on the march but they hope to move forward after it.
The new "non-partisan" coalition hopes to serve a role in bringing together various organizations and individuals to "reaffirm our true American values as outlined in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's landmark Four Freedoms speech."
Following the march, some 30 "action tables" will be manned by various groups that are involved in projects helping to secure those freedoms. For example, if somebody wanted to help with the Berkshire Immigrant Center, he or she can find out exactly how.
"We don't want to reinvent the wheel. We just want to provide the community a place to come together," Whilden said.
What do they hope to accomplish with the march? A message that this community is against hate and bigotry in all of its forms. That this community is united in its efforts to secure those four freedoms for everybody.
"We want it to be a big tent where everyone feels welcomed ... It shows everybody in the community that they are not alone," Whilden said, later adding, "we're trying to be as broad and inclusive as possible."
The organizers have been working on the project over the holidays and returned Tuesday to find hundreds expressing support and interest. The 100 or so organizations range from private businesses to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the mayors of both North Adams and Pittsfield, to religious organizations to cultural groups. The Brigades, the Berkshire organizing arm of the state Democratic Party, alerted its email list as did the North Adams Chamber of Commerce. Facebook invites were passed along to some 2,600 people.
"It's really been heartwarming to see the positive response," Whilden said.
Saturday may be a little cold for those marching, with temperatures predicted to be in the 20s, but the sun is supposed to be out and no rain is in the forecast.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Comments are closed for this article. If you would like to contribute information on this article, e-mail us at info@iBerkshires.com
Boys & Girls Club Announces Pebble Beach Golf Raffle
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires has announced that raffle tickets for a trip to the world renown Pebble Beach Golf Resorts located on the Monterrey Peninsula of California are now available.
The winner will stay in the world class luxury accomodations at The Lodge at Pebble Beach which features an ocean side setting overlooking the famed 18th hole of The Pebble Bach Golf Links. The prize package includes one round for two of golf at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, and one round for two at Spyglass Hill Golf Course.
The Pebble Beach Course is recognized as one of the most beautiful courses in the world as it hugs the coastline and opens up to the Pacific Ocean and was the host of this year’s U.S. Open Championship.
The Spyglass Hill course is one of the most respected and revered courses in the world with views of the ocean and the natural beauty of the DeMonte Forest. The prize package includes up to $1,000 for airfare.
At a ward meeting, Helen Moon was elated to see a young woman in her 20s take a seat in the audience.
At ward meetings and at the polls, it is often the same group of people making their voices heard. But this woman wasn't someone Moon had heard much from in the past so it made her happy to see... click for more
The program is intended to provide coaching and mentorship to help young people take the first step in their careers. It has been ongoing in Pittsfield for 15 years, and for the last six Guardian Life Insurance has contributed.
click for more
The cracked and worn steps to City Hall stood between two mayoral candidates Tuesday night.
Councilor At Large and mayoral candidate Melissa Mazzeo and Mayor Linda Tyer sparred during the City Council meeting over the lack of repairs to those steps. In 2015, a storm led to significant flooding... click for more
At one point, Ashton Applewhite's biggest fear was that she'd end up "drooling in an institution" when she got old.
She was worried about memory loss. She didn't want to live a depressed life. Getting old was not something she wanted to even think about. But something changed when she embarked... click for more
Berkshire Community College is hosting the Pittsfield's Ward 5 and Ward 6 debates on Monday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Koussevitzky Arts Center, Room K-111, at its main campus, 1350 West St.
click for more
For the third time in four months, the City Council said it wants to have a full conversation about downtown parking.
But it still hasn't determined how to do that - whether that means hiring a consultant or doing it internally. On Tuesday, the council agreed to have the city solicitor craft an... click for more