Four Freedoms Presents Day of Civic Empowerment

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Area residents have the opportunity to attend more than 25 civic and election-related workshops at no charge this Saturday, April 28, on the campus of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

The workshops are presented by the Four Freedoms Coalition in partnership with MCLA. The workshops will take place at the Church Street Center, 375 Church St.

Titled "Step Up!"  the daylong event features non-partisan civic workshops led by North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Paul Mark, North Adams City Councilors Benjamin Lamb and Marie T. Harpin, Multicultural BRIDGE founder and CEO Gwendolyn Hampton-Van Zant, Shirley Edgerton of the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP, and many others.

Other organizations participating in Step Up! include Berkshire Democratic Brigades, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Berkshire Food Project, First Congregational Church of Williamstown, Working Cities Pittsfield, Center for Learning in Action at Williams College, Indivisible Pittsfield, Progressive Democrats of America, Berkshire Pride, and others. All instructors and organizations have volunteered their time.

While admission is free to all of the workshops, advance registration is strongly recommended as there is limited space in some of the workshops. Register online at

On-site registration opens at 9 a.m. Saturday at MCLA, and MCLA professor Frances Jones-Sneed will give a keynote talk at 9:30 a.m. to set the tone for the day. Jones-Sneed won the Berkshire Award in 2014 for her pioneering work in uncovering and sharing the history of African-Americans in Berkshire County.

The event will close at 3:30 p.m. with a performance by hip hop dance group dysFUNKcrew, a group of MCLA alumni who have performed throughout the Berkshires and beyond.

Below is the schedule at a glance of all workshops. Further details on each workshop can be found at or for more information call 518-781-4686.

Workshop Schedule:

10 to 11 a.m.

  • Redistricting and Gerrymandering: State Representative Paul Mark
  • Introduction to Cultural Competency & Unconscious Bias: Shirley Edgerton, Community Activist, Diversity Trainer & Marie Richardson, Pittsfield Public Schools
  • Organizing from the Heart: Interfaith Action in a Chaotic Culture: James Lumsden and Mark Longhurst, local clergy
  • Canvassing 101: Members from Berkshire Democratic Brigades and NY19VOTES
  • What is Martin Luther King's Relevance to Today? Richard Dassatti, April 4th Coalition

10 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

  • Welcoming Newcomers: Why It Matters and What You Can Do: No Lost Generation, Center for Learning in Action, Williams College
  • Understanding Inequality in the Berkshires: Alisa Costa, Berkshire Bridges & Working Cities Pittsfield

11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

  • The Foundations of a Strong and Healthy Democracy: A Participant's Guide to North Adams City Government: Mayor Thomas W. Bernard and Councilor Marie T. Harpin, City of North Adams
  • Non-violence in Theory and Practice: Drew Herzig, Indivisible Pittsfield
  • The Inside/Outside Strategy: Russell Freedman, Progressive Democrats of America
  • Empowering the LGBTQ Community: The Value of Inclusion and Being an Ally: Kenneth Mercure,  Berkshire Pride
  • Effectively Communicating Through Barriers: Kim McMann, Berkshire Food Project

12:15: Lunch (bring your own or head downtown)

1:15- 2:15 p.m.

  • A Conversation with State Senator Adam Hinds
  • Writing Effective Letters to the Editor: Lee Harrison, a frequent contributor to the Berkshire Eagle
  • Pieces of the Puzzle: Problems, Resources, and Your Role in Ending Domestic and Sexual Violence: Laini Sporbert and Sue Birns, Elizabeth Freeman Center
  • Environmental Activism: Growing A Movement: Rosemary Wessel, No Fracked Gas in Mass
  • Food For Thought: Kim McMann, Berkshire Food Project
  • Students of Color: An Experience: PHS Students

1:15-3:30 p.m.

  • The Importance of Including Sex Workers in the Social Justice Movement: Bella Vendetta, North Berkshire Racial Justice Center/Western Massachusetts Power Exchange/New England Leather Alliance/Team Clear Heels 413
  • Join Us for A Courageous Conversation! Ani Nadler Grosser, Satyena Ananda and Karen Clark, Women of Spirit in the Berkshires

2:30-3:30 p.m.

  • Join the Fight to Defend Transgender Rights with Freedom for all Massachusetts: Jessica Fried, Freedom for All Massachusetts
  • Run for Office! Stephanie Bosley, former candidate for State Representative
  • Going From Hashtag to Community Placemaking: Benjamin Lamb, North Adams Councilperson
  • Youth Activism: Area youth activists, March for Our Lives local members
  • Criminal Justice Reform & Ending Mass Incarceration: Andrea Harrington, Andrea Harrington for District Attorney and Connor & Morneau LLP
  • Power + Privilege: Leveraging Our Resources for Equity and Justice: Gwendolyn VanSant, Multicultural BRIDGE

The non-partisan Berkshire-based Four Freedoms Coalition was founded in December 2016 and brings together more than 150 businesses, community groups, non-profit organizations and elected officials to support the four freedoms outlined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt — freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear — and to stand against bigotry and prejudice.

Tags: Berkshire Brigades,   civics,   election,   four freedoms,   workshops,   

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