We want Black entrepreneurs and businesses to utilize our services and programming for their growth and self-sufficiency.
By encouraging economic justice and implementing new regional initiatives, we hope to open access to capital, technical assistance, and patronage. We are here to provide support to entrepreneurs and promote existing businesses. We aim to attract and inspire other Black businesses to relocate to the Berkshires.
Erica Barreto (she/hers) is a multicultural educator, arts manager, and community change-maker interested in producing courageous and experiential spaces for education, dialogue, and action. She aspires to create and sustain the vibrant, vital, and enriching spaces where communities can thrive while also celebrating meaningful pathways for success, connection, and liberation.
Born to first-generation immigrant parents from Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Guia Monte Juntos, Algarve, Portugal, Erica grew up in the Hudson Valley, NY before moving to the ancestral homelands of the Mohicans, presently known as the Berkshires. Barreto graduated summa cum laude from Mass. College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) with a B.A. in English/Communications and a minor in Arts Management. In 2019, she returned to her alma mater to coordinate the MCLA Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH): a grant-funded initiative designed to promote equity-centered change on campus and throughout the Berkshires by expanding access to area arts and humanities resources, catalyzing opportunities for interdisciplinary engagements, and advancing experiential teaching and learning practices in higher education. During this time, Barreto also co-taught a 430-level course in Art & Social Justice where she instructed undergraduates to examine the role of the arts in influencing social change.
Prior to her work at MCLA, Barreto worked in Communications and Enrollment at Berkshire Art and Technology (BART) Charter Public School. Having experience and passion for creative youth development, she simultaneously assumed the role of BART Multicultural Alliance program advisor where she encourages students in grades 6-12 to deepen their understanding of multiculturalism, identity, and community. In 2019, the Multicultural Alliance was recognized as the Berkshire Eagle’s “Classroom of the Week.”
Barreto is currently the youngest appointed member of the board of directors for WAM Theatre where she supports the advancement of the company’s Accountability Plan. She previously served on the executive leadership team for the BRIDGE board of directors, and actively participated in BRIDGE’s IDEA Institute’s Inclusive Leadership Cohort for Social Change, a peer accountability network that supported 60 teams across sectors in embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within their organizations’ short-term and long-term strategies. In 2022, Barreto was awarded Berkshire Community College’s 40 Under 40 Award.
Kamea is a recent college graduate and Black economist native to Pittsfield. Kamea graduated from Pittsfield High School where she participated in four varsity sports, played cello in orchestra, was National Honors Society and Class ‘18 Treasurer, danced in musical theater, founded a cultural competency club with friends, and organized fundraisers and student protests. She spent much of her free time volunteering as a dog walker at the Berkshire Humane Society and serving coffee at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge.
Kamea went on to play varsity volleyball at Occidental College in Los Angeles, serving as captain in her senior season. She earned her B.A. in Economics with a double-minor in Black Studies and Critical Theory & Social Justice in May 2022. At Occidental Kamea founded an organization called TUPOCC @ Oxy– a subgroup of The United People of Color Caucus, a collective which empowers BIPOC lawyers– to connect high school and undergraduate BIPOC students in LA to lawyers of color. Additionally, she was a Resident Advisor to the Black campus community, a middle school tutor, and an Admissions Intern, focusing on social media communications, prospective student interviews, report writing, and panel discussions. During school breaks Kamea has worked at Tanglewood and for the Berkshire County Education Task Force.
Recently returned to Pittsfield, Kamea is eager to combine her appreciation for where she comes from with innovative ideas inspired by living in a global city. Kamea embarks on her professional post-graduate journey with the ambition of pouring back into her community through promotion and advocacy for economic and racial equity. Outside of the office, Kamea enjoys adventuring with her puppy Gigi and has also taken up kickboxing.
Gigi graduated from the classrooms of Occidental College to the office of the Berkshire Black Economic Council. She loves to travel and is happiest when getting belly rubs. Gigi is the best administrative assistant out there!
Born to immigrants from Ghana, A.J. is a native of Pittsfield and the eldest of four brothers. A.J. is a graduate of The Governor’s Academy, where he was a dorm proctor and lacrosse captain. He went on to play varsity lacrosse at Tufts University, where he was also a BLAST scholar, a Latin Tutor, and he earned a B.A. in American Studies. A.J. is a two-time National champion and facilitated class discussion for an American Studies prerequisite course called “Race in America.”
Since 2017, A.J. has performed constituent services and community outreach as the District Aide for State Senator Adam G. Hinds. He was formerly the board co-chair for Multicultural BRIDGE. He is a board member of Berkshire Community Action Council and Community Health Programs. He serves on the C4 Arts Initiative and The Executive Committee of the Berkshire County Branch of The NAACP where he serves as the Economic Development and Justice Chair. A.J. is the founder and President of the Berkshire Black Economic Council. A.J., is now participating in the Boston Fed’s Leaders for Equitable Local Economies where he, and his brother Auric, will be working to support BIPOC businesses in The City of Pittsfield by working with city and key institutions to shift approaches to small business support and purchasing.
In 2022, A.J. was awarded the Non Sibi Sed Aliis Award by The Alumni Council of The Governors Academy. A.J. returned to his hometown intending to impact his community in a way that inspires young folks to return to the Berkshires to strengthen the place that raised them.
Shirley Ann Session Edgerton is an Educator, Cultural Competency Trainer and Community Activist. She graduated from Herbert Lehman College (City University of New York) with a B.A., attended Atlanta University School of Social Work and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts where she completed an M.Ed.
Ms. Edgerton was employed by the Department of Development Services for twenty -one years. She served as the Berkshire County Director of the State Operated Homes for adults with Mental Retardation for fifteen years. During her tenure she attended Brandeis University & the former Department of Mental Retardation collaborative Diversity Leadership Institute. Mrs Edgerton performed duties as a Manager as well as dually trained new staff in Western Massachusetts State Operated Homes. Over the years she encountered numerous Diversity, Equity and Inclusion opportunities; including Harvard University’s Harvard Race, Equity and Leadership in Schools Institute in 2019.
Ms. Edgerton joined Pittsfield Public Schools as the first Cultural Proficiency Coach in 2015. This position includes recruitment, organizing Cultural Competency training and developing diverse learning situations for students. She is also the Founder/Director of the Rites of Passage & Empowerment mentoring program for girls.
Mrs. Edgerton has received numerous recognitions as well as two honorary Doctorates degrees from College of Our Lady of the Elms and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts for her outstanding service to children and community. In October 2020 she received the MassInc Gateway Cities Institute Innovation Award for strategies to increase diversity amongst educators in Pittsfield Public Schools.
Born and raised in the Berkshires. Nyanna has been very involved in the community with her parents Manny and Vannessa Slaughter. She grew up playing sports at the local YMCA and Boy’s & Girl’s club. She was Captain of her high school varsity sports teams. She was a member of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Program now referred to as 1Berkshire Youth Leadership Program. During her tenure at Taconic she was a part of Business Professionals of America. She was one of the first members of the Rites of Passage Empowerment Program. She graduated from the University of New Haven with a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice for Investigative Services with a Minor in Business Management in 2018. She was on the Basketball team for two years. Nyanna volunteered with the New Haven Reads Program to help provide literacy to elementary and middle school children. She is currently working to finish her Masters of Business Administration concentrating in Accounting from Fitchburg State University.
Nyanna worked as a camp counselor, coordinator, and co-director for the Marilyn Hamilton Sports & Literacy Program for over 7 years. She was a host at her local Applebee’s and administered drug tests and performed security work for the Berkshire Community Correction Center. She interned for the U.S. Senate her junior year of college and after graduating she joined the staff as a Staff Assistant. After six months she transitioned to the Regional Director for Western Massachusetts. She currently serves as the Regional Director for Central Massachusetts. She has been with the Senate for three years now. She is a member of the Pittsfield School Committee.
Nyanna has a heart and drive for service for her community. Nyanna is enrolled in an educational platform to bring access, exposure, and understanding to financial literacy and the foreign exchange market. She is utilizing this platform and her experiences throughout her career to enrich and empower her community.
Warren C. Dews Jr. has worked in the media industry for close to three decades. Dews has extensive knowledge in Advertising, Marketing, Sales and Operations. Dews is well regarded as a senior management professional with extensive experience in the development and leadership of core business processes; a creative problem-solver; and someone who is able to innovate strategies that increase productivity, enhance customer satisfaction, and improve cost-effectiveness. Fittingly, in 2004 Dews was named one of Press Time’s “Top 20 Under 40” by the Newspaper Association of America in the entire newspaper industry. Dews understands the importance of staying connected to his business and the community. Over the past 10 years Dews has sat on the Boards of Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Commission, Pittsfield Community TV, 1Berskhire Chamber Association, and Downtown Pittsfield Inc. He currently sits on the Boards of Berkshire United Way, Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires, Black Economic Council and the New England Association of Circulation Executive where he was named the first African American President in 102 years of the organization. Dews is currently the Publisher of two newspapers in Greenville and Ravena NY, Real Estate Sales Executive with The Kinder Group and is also the CEO of The Country Club Cigar Lounge and Dews Management Inc./ In his role as DMI he manages the careers of many musical artist and other talents across the spectrum. One of his artists currently sings background for John Legend.
Dews graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Virginia State University (HBCU) in 1993. In 1988, he also graduated from the very famous “FAME” High School in New York City now called Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music and the Performing Arts. In 1995, he was signed with Atlantic Records as a recording artist. He has worked with artist such as Jam Master Jay for the well-known Group Run DMC, Eddie F from Heavy D and the boys to name a few. He has also sung on stage with Billy Preston and Patti Labelle for a 4th of July celebration. Dews is also a Minister at Price Memorial AME Zion Church in Pittsfield MA. He is married to his wife Roberta and the couple has three children, Warren III, West and Kennedy.
Alfred Enchill “Al”, migrated to the United States from Ghana in 1988 and lived in Bridgeport, CT. He moved to Pittsfield, MA in 1991 where he has settled since and raised his four sons, A.J., Auric, Adrian, and Alec Enchill. He attended University of Ghana, Legon and also studied Business Administration at Berkshire Community College.
He is the Owner/President of Elegant Stitches Inc. an embroidery, screen printing, and promotional product company established in 1997 and located in Pittsfield, MA. He is a founding member of United Africans of the Berkshires. Al is also the president of African Catholic Community of Saint Marks in Pittsfield, MA. A member of Knights of Columbus, Al enjoys movies, documentaries and he is an avid scrabble player.
Auric is a native resident of Pittsfield, where his parents immigrated to from Ghana over 30 years ago and is the second eldest of four brothers. He attended the Trinity-Pawling School and Tufts University where he received his bachelor’s degree in U.S. History and earned 4 varsity letters with their lacrosse program.
He returned to the Berkshires to work for Elegant Stitches, his family’s custom embroidery and screen-printing company located in downtown Pittsfield, as their sales manager. Outside of work, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, Berkshire Immigrant Center, and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation. Auric is invested in creating a more inclusive and progressive community through his professional commitments and volunteerism.
Born and raised on the Ivory Coast of West Africa, Steve has been in the Berkshires for the past 25 years. He received both his BA and MBA from Mass. College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). Currently, Steve is a Counselor for Berkshire County Housing where he has worked for the past 7+ years. He is an active member of the United Africans of the Berkshires.
Stay current with BBEC news & events by subscribing to our List Serve here.