ReMarks and Refreshments

Print Story | Email Story
SHEFFIELD, Mass. — State Senator Paul W. Mark and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli invite the public to a "ReMarks and Refreshments" forum on Wednesday, Nov. 29.
The legislators welcome the public to ask questions or offer up comments about opportunities and/or challenges facing the Town of Sheffield and Western Massachusetts. Senator Mark and Representative Pignatelli will also share some legislative updates from the State House.
This event is open to the public and will be held at the Sheffield Town Hall, 21 Depot Square, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Senator Mark's Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Hampshire District consists of 57 municipalities in western Massachusetts. He is the chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development.
Representative Pignatelli's Third Berkshire District consists of the Berkshire County towns of Alford, Becket, Dalton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlborough, Otis, Richmond, Sandisfield, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham, Washington, and West Stockbridge. He is the vice chair of the Joint Committee on Rules and vice chair of the House Committee on Rules.
The Sheffield ReMarks and Refreshments event is one in a series of public forums Senator Mark is organizing in an effort to reach all 57 communities.
If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at

W. E. B. Du Bois Center to Reflect on Democracy this Season

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.— The W. E. B. Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy held a pre-birthday reception on Feb. 22, at Saint James Place in honor of civil rights pioneer W.E.B Du Bois. 

During the event community members met the center's first Executive Director Ny Whitaker and Michael Blake, the inaugural visiting scholar in democracy. 

"As Du Bois contemplated our collective challenges, he also set out a vision for what our democracy could be and called us to action for the role that we could take in making it a reality," Whitaker said. 

The night hinted at some of the topics the center will showcase during this year's programming themed "Reflections on Democracy." The season will run from March through October. and will have a closing reception in November. 

Attendees also had a chance to have a first look at the preliminary designs for the restoration of Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church. 

During the evening, Whitaker asked audience members to reflect on the current state of our democracy. She also encouraged audience members to write down their hopes for the future of our democracy in 2024 on postcards that will be posted on their website and to continue the conversation outside of the evening's activities. 

More information on Whitaker, her goals in the position, and the center's restoration here

Blake, a scholar, a lay minister, entrepreneur, and educator who will be the moderator for the center's Visiting Scholar Salon Series, demonstrated how relevant Du Bois's ideas are today with one of his quotes: "he said ‘There can be no perfect democracy curtailed by color, race, or poverty. But with all we accomplish all, even Peace.' That is the reason why we're here not just for tonight, but what we have to do within the center and the work'."

"These words are still pertinent today when looking at what is happening in our country," Blake said. 

"Democracy is not about the protection of a particular party. Democracy is that we can be party of something greater for all of us. And that is what we do," Blake said. 

Blake recently completed a tenure as a visiting scholar at Harvard and was a White House aide under President Barack Obama. He also served as an Assembly member in New York for three terms and is the former Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. 

Blake continued and quoted  President John F. Kennedy: "' Amongst a divided community…whenever there's a child without milk, so long as they are hungry parents and working farmers. So long as they are seniors without pensions. So long will be the need for leadership. And that is the beauty of democracy and that is the beauty of why we're here tonight," Blake said. 

Blake added it is not a coincidence that Whitaker, an afro-Latina, was chosen for the role of the center's Executive Director, he said. 

"To all the women in the room, you should be appalled by what we're seeing. what's happening in the country right now. And I say to people all day, every day, it doesn't matter your gender. I'm a man and I'm a feminist," Blake said. 

"And don't talk to me about what's happening in communities. If something's happened in one community, all of us should be upset, and all of us should be doing something. And that is the reason why we're here tonight and that is the reason I'm so grateful to be with you."

In his address, the center's secretary, John Speer, highlighted attempts throughout history to rewrite and erase historical accounts. Speer shared a personal anecdote of witnessing such tactics but experiencing a profound awakening during a trip to Ghana in West Africa.

When Speer went to Ghana this summer to walk the path of his ancestry, he said he went on an emotional journey of anger, power, and peace. He said he was angry because he believed the lie about the "cooperation of West Africa, in the enslavement of African peoples." 

He said he put his hands in the Assin Manso Slave River, and he chose power and peace because he was welcomed home by his family in Ghana who chose to give him "the power in the gift of truth," Speer said.

"And so I went from ignorance to truth. And in that truth, it gave me the courage to choose justice and to choose democracy and it's really important for me as a teacher, because our history has always been contraband."

Du Bois warned society not to fall for this, otherwise "we will continue to deny our political ideas and make a mockery of our philanthropic aims as a nation," Speer said. 

Speer urged attendees to participate and labor together in "not only reflecting on democracy but changing the trajectory of that history to honor and uplift who we are as people together because we must labor with and for one another."

More information on the center here. Photos from the event here


View Full Story

More South Berkshire Stories