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Obasohan has learned a lot from city employees and has built relationships. What came out during those assessments fed the curriculum he is developing for training and workshops.

Pittsfield Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Office Has Successful First Year

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In its inaugural year, the city's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has opened up the conversation about creating safe and equal spaces for all community members.

"I would say that almost a full year has gone very, very well, exceptionally well," Chief Diversity Officer Michael Obasohan said about the work that has been done internally within the city departments and externally with other organizations.

He was appointed in February after the City Council approved a new six-month budget of $99,760 for the department during its fiscal 2022 budget process.

For the fiscal year 2023, that number increased to  $169,416.

Obasohan came in with an agenda and there were some shifts to the plan, as a need for his services came up in additional places.  

One of the actions he felt was the most impactful was the assessments of city departments.  

"I would go into all the departments and pretty much have an informal conversation with the director and then also the staff within those departments around their understanding of diversity, equity inclusion," he explained.

"What are they currently doing that focuses on equity, social justice, or what I can do as a chief diversity officer that would support them in that work and it was very well received."

Obasohan has learned a lot from city employees and has built relationships.  What came out during those assessments fed the curriculum he is developing for training and workshops.

A lot of conversation was raised around pronouns such as the understanding of pronouns and how they can be used to be more welcoming and support the community more.

A safe zone training was also conducted in May, which was a two-day training workshop around awareness of, definitions, and terms within the LGBTQ+ community led by people with lived experience.  It aimed to provide city employees with basic knowledge on how to support the community and anyone that walks into their department.

"The conversations that happened in there were great," Obasohan said. "The facilitators did a really awesome job at creating a space where people feel comfortable enough and also comfortable enough to challenge each other."

It was followed by a successful makeup session in June.

The department has also worked with external organizations to be in the conversation about opioid abuse and equality in women's health care.

Aside from some pushback from the get-go, Obasohan feels that the department has bell well-received and embraced by the community.

At the time of his appointment,  Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick and Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky voted in opposition to the appointment at last week's City Council meeting, saying the department approved last year was not needed.
But upon approval, it was met with applause throughout Council Chambers.

"The majority has been very positive and welcoming," Obasohan said. "And then I would say that the leadership team has been very open to look at policies or asking questions about how can we be more equitable, how can we be more welcoming."

Residents have also felt comfortable coming into the department and sharing experiences in the community or how they feel about living in the city.

One of the major goals that the DEI office has for the next calendar year is to establish a strategic plan for the department, an equity audit of the city, and to deploy DEI ambassadors as support systems for other departments.

The DEI office currently has two employees: Obasohan and an administrative coordinator.

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Berkshire Museum presents 120th: Building the Museum

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Museum announced the second installment of its 120th-anniversary celebration, an exhibition that takes visitors on a journey through the history of the Museum and the world during the 1940s, '50s, '60s, and '70s. 
Titled 120th: Building the Museum – 1939-1978, this exhibition is set to be on display from Oct. 7, 2023, through Jan. 7, 2024. 
Focused on the leadership of Stuart Henry – whose tenure as Director of the Berkshire Museum spanned a total of 39 years. This exhibition offers an opportunity to step back in time and explore the Berkshire Museum through the headlines, stories, and cultural phenomena that shaped an era. 
Under Henry's visionary guidance, the Museum not only weathered the challenges of wartime but also thrived, becoming a cultural hub for the community. 
From the formation of the Junior Naturalist Club in 1945 to the growth of the Museum's Camera Club and the filming of the 1968 NBC Children's Theater adaptation of "The Enormous Egg" by Oliver Butterworth, this exhibition captures the essence of an era marked by innovation and cultural exploration. Notably, the exhibition showcases four triceratops models designed by the renowned Louis Paul Jonas Studio, creators of the Berkshire Museum's beloved "World in Miniature" dioramas. 
A significant portion of the exhibition features artworks and objects donated to the Museum between 1939 and 1978. These contributions include pieces from A.E. Gallatin's collection of abstract art, the Spalding collection of Asian art, and the Hahn Silver Collection. By highlighting these donations, the exhibition sheds light on the enduring support and enthusiasm of the Museum's dedicated patrons. 
In addition to exploring the Museum's evolution, 120th: Building the Museum – 1939-1978 delves into the rapid growth of General Electric in Pittsfield during this period. This local industrial giant left an indelible mark on the region's population and economy, a story told through the exhibition's immersive displays and engaging narratives. 
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