Educators invited to attend African American biography conference at MCLA

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Area educators and the public are invited to attend “The Shaping Role of Place in African American Biography,” a conference to be held Sept. 14-17 at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The conference will celebrate the work of 20 K-12 teachers – from North Adams, Pittsfield, Dalton, Lenox, Sheffield and Great Barrington. Although all are welcome at the conference, educators who attend will earn professional development credit. Event organizer and project lead Frances Jones-Sneed, an MCLA history professor, said the conference would instruct educators on interesting ways to teach children about history from a local perspective, connecting Berkshire County events to the national level. “The 20 teachers who have worked on our project have worked for 18 months to learn how to do that. It is their job now, as master teachers of incorporating African American local history into their classrooms, to help out other teachers in the area to do the same,” Jones-Sneed said. Designated as a “We the People” project by the National Endowment for the Humanites (NEH), which awarded a $100,000 grant to fund the effort, the curriculum developed by the teachers is linked to the creation of the “Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail” and the publication of a 250-page trail guide, to be released at the conference. Once published this September, the trail guide will be given out to county libraries and to Berkshire County schools. Featured African Americans include civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Boise of Great Barrington, Revolutionary War veteran Agrippa Hull of Stockbridge, Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee of Lenox, ex-slave Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman of Sheffield, and Civil War veteran Rev. Samuel Harrison of Pittsfield. Conference speakers at MCLA will include David Levering Lewis, the Julius Silver University Professor and professor of history at New York University, known for his Pulitzer Prize winning, two volume biography of W.E.B. Du Bois; Mark Carnes, professor of history at Barnard College and general editor of “American National Biography,” who recently received the American Historical Association’s award for the best article on teaching history for “Inciting Speech;” and Lucy Anne Hurston, a sociology teacher at Manchester Community College in Connecticut and the author of “Speak, So You Can Speak Again,” an interactive text package tracing the journey of her aunt, Zora Neale Hurston, from Eatonville, Fla., through literary fame during the Harlem Renaissance to death in obscurity. The cost of the entire conference for Berkshire County residents is $100 or $50 per day, and includes all events, as well as lunch on Friday and Saturday and a Sunday brunch. Three or more teachers from the same school pay $250 for the entire conference. Students, seniors and those of low income pay $75 for the entire conference or $25 per day. In connection with the conference, MCLA will present its annual Margaret A. Hart Memorial Gospel Festival, featuring the Craig Harris Gospel Quartet and the Price AME Gospel Choir on Friday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Church Street Center. Friday’s events include an inaugural tour and dedication of the heritage trail by motor coach, a Sheffield Historical Society symposium to include JoAnne Pope Melish, author of “Disowning Slavery,” and the gospel festival. Saturday’s sessions and speakers will include Lewis and Hurston, as well as a panel on Du Bois. On Sunday, Carnes will speak in recognition of local teachers participating in the curriculum project. In connection with the conference, MCLA’s Gallery 51 will feature artist Terry Adkins and his tribute to Du Bois at the 51 Main St. gallery in North Adams. For more information, (413) 662-5541, e-mail [ ] or go to [ ] .
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Freeman Center's 'Rise For Safety and Justice' Walks Aim to Represent All

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Elizabeth Freeman Center's annual fundraiser to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence has undergone a couple of changes to be more inclusive and fit the needs of the pandemic.

The former "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event is now "Rise Together For Safety and Justice," a series of smaller fundraising walks throughout Berkshire County to stand against gender-based violence.

The event's original symbol was a red shoe and featured men walking a mile in perceivably feminine footwear down North Street at the year's last Third Thursday event  In 2019, the event drew hundreds of supporters and raised at least $75,000 in its ninth year.

Some in the LGBTQ-plus community saw this theme as being harmful and collaborated with the center to create an event that is representative of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic preventing large gatherings, the event was transformed into a series of six smaller walks across the county between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29.

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