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The Berkshire Edge

BUSINESS BRIEFS: CHP Berkshires welcomes Rachel Melendez-Mabee

Great Barrington— Rachel Melendez-Mabee has been named to the board of CHP Berkshires.

As vice president of culture and brand and DEI officer at Greylock Federal Credit Union, Melendez-Mabee brings to CHP her skills in corporate workplace diversity issues, training and initiatives. She has previously worked for the PGA of America, as PGA WORKS’ workforce development and lead manager, DEI. She has also worked as social and digital brand manager for Berkshire Bank, and as a senior account executive for Roberts Communications, a public relations firm. Earlier, she worked as a sales and marketing specialist for PGA of America.

The Berkshire Eagle

Du Bois Freedom Center appoints Ny Whitaker as new director

The W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy hires an executive director, elects emeritus and executive officers, and announces theme for 2024 season.

The Berkshire Eagle

Brett Random appointed to board of Greylock Federal Credit Union

PITTSFIELD — Greylock Federal Credit Union has appointed Brett Random to its volunteer board of directors. A Pittsfield resident, Random is the executive director for Berkshire County Head Start and a certified parent educator. She earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies: children, families and society from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts; a master’s degree in social work from Westfield State University; and a certificate in organizational leadership from Harvard Business School. Random also is a 2018 recipient of the 40 Under Forty Award from Berkshire Community College.

The Berkshire Eagle

Black doulas are about to be trained in an effort to help families in Berkshire County give birth safely

After Berkshire Nursing Families identified that there were no Black doulas working in Berkshire County, Health New England made a $50,000 grant to Springfield Family Doulas to help train and support Black people in Berkshire County to become doulas and lactation counselors.

The Berkshire Eagle

The new director of Great Barrington’s Du Bois Freedom Center is excited to make the dream come true

The Freedom Center chose Whitaker to lead it after a seven-month national search. She is a former White House senior adviser and professor at New York University. She has held leadership positions for more than two decades in the corporate, nonprofit and public sectors — among other things, she knows how to raise a lot of money.

The Berkshire Eagle

‘Mind, Body & Soul: A Self-Care Coloring Book for Black Women’ pairs beautiful illustrations with important everyday affirmations

Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore. Most recently, coloring has been recognized as a helpful tool for those practicing good mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, coloring is good for your health — it promotes mindfulness, relieves stress and helps us “embrace the imperfect.”

The Berkshire Eagle

Breaking Barriers on MLK Day of Service and Peacemaker award

Volunteers donated their time to various organizations in North County on Monday as part of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday. The Rev. Mary Frances Curns of All Saints Berkshire Episcopal Church in North Adams was the recipient of the Peacemaker Award.
Andrew Ritter (pictured left) and Shivon Robinson of Williamstown sew fleece mittens at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ Church Street Center on Monday morning as part of the annual Day of Service in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Berkshire Eagle

Students learn the value of service at Martin Luther King Jr. Day clothing drive at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center

The Gladys Allen Brigham Center in Pittsfield. The community center, along with Berkshire United Way and Greylock Federal Credit Union, accepted donations on Saturday for an MLK Day Community Clothing Drive, which will be held on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Massachusetts State House

At MLK Breakfast, Governor Healey Announces New Efforts to Expand State Contracts to Diverse Businesses

BOSTON — On January 15, 2024, during the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast, Governor Maura Healey, in partnership with the Supplier Diversity Office (SDO), announced additional efforts to increase state contracts with diverse and small businesses by assessing and reopening contracts that can provide such opportunities. This effort also includes swearing in the state’s first Diverse and Small Business Advisory Board for the Supplier Diversity Office. 


The Berkshire Eagle

Sledders descend on Clapp Park for the season’s first snow on Sunday. For one family, it was a way to honor their mother

For Desiree Addy and her family, a jam-packed afternoon of sledding and snowball fights was about far more than enjoying the winter’s first real snow.


The Berkshire Eagle

Pine Cobble appoints new head of school

Pine Cobble School has appointed longtime educator Alana Harte as head of school as of Jan. 1,  according to a December announcement sent to the school community by its board of trustees.


The Berkshire Eagle

During a mock trial in a Pittsfield courtroom, Reid Middle School students learned real legal lessons

In a Pittsfield courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, a different kind of case was heard: a fictional one.

The attorneys, on either side, were middle schoolers.

For the second straight year, students at Reid Middle School participated in a proceeding through the Discovering Justice Mock Trial Program. The program provided volunteer attorneys to 34 middle schools across the commonwealth, accounting for more than 400 students statewide.

(Pictured left: Romelo Holley)


WAMC: Northeast Public Radio

Leveling the playing field:

Pittsfield, Massachusetts received over $40 million in federal relief through the American Rescue Plan Act President Biden signed into law in 2021. Its allotment from that windfall to the Berkshire Black Economic Council has led to a flourishing of the city’s Black businesses, which are filling vacant storefronts downtown and contributing to a culinary golden age for Pittsfield.


The Berkshire Eagle

Getting Comfortable with art

Makai Shepardson paints Christmas ornaments in Colleen Quinn’s art class at Pittsfield High School. 


The Berkshire Eagle

At Shakespeare & Company, a holiday tradition continues with ‘Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley’

Devante Owens hold scripts while fully costumed in “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” in 2021, a skill they’ll both bring to “Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley.”


The Berkshire Eagle

He was the most prominent Black resident of Stockbridge in his day. Now, Agrippa Hull’s portrait hangs in a major folk art exhibit

A portrait of Agrippa Hull (1759-1848), who was born free in Northampton and became the most prominent Black landowner in Stockbridge, has been borrowed by New York City’s American Folk Art Museum for its new exhibit, “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North.”


The Berkshire Eagle

Williamstown Theatre Festival commission ‘Jaja’s African Hair Braiding’ was never performed in the Berkshires. Here’s how to livestream it during its Broadway run

WILLIAMSTOWN — A new work on Broadway had its start at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” — which follows a day in the life at a Harlem hair braiding shop — was commissioned by the festival in 2018, but was never staged in Williamstown before its world premiere on Broadway this fall.

The Berkshire Eagle

For years, Walter Michael Bradley wasn’t sure he deserved the title ‘veteran.’ He knows differently now

Area veteran groups decided to recognize Bradley as Veteran of the Year during services following the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade. The honor was bestowed in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument just off South Street, as part of remembrances for those who gave their lives in service to their country. Bradley, who’s still recovering from a heart attack earlier this year, was lauded and given a standing ovation by his fellow veterans and onlookers.

The Berkshire Eagle

A new state scholarship gives students in programs like BCC’s a debt-free path to a career in nursing

A new scholarship program from the state now gives back to students who plan to make a career caring for people in their communities. With the passage of the fiscal 2024 budget, Gov. Maura Healey and state legislators set aside $18 million to cover the costs nursing students at community colleges would normally take on in tuition fees, books and supply costs.

The Berkshire Eagle

North Adams: McCann Practical Nursing program graduates 24

NORTH ADAMS — McCann Technical School held a pinning ceremony Tuesday for 24 students who completed the school’s postsecondary practical nursing program.


The Berkshire Eagle

NBA coach and former player Clifford Ray visits the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires

Former World Champion NBA player and coach Clifford Ray visited the Berkshires from Oct. 18-20 to discuss his book, “Big Clifford Ray Saves the Day.”


The Berkshire Eagle

A Great Barrington postal worker wins lottery to buy $250,000 house. Now she and her family are helping others

GREAT BARRINGTON — In what she described as “a miracle,” a postal worker and her family of five are the winners of a housing lottery that will allow them to purchase one of the few affordable homes in town.


The Berkshire Eagle

R.O.P.E. fundraiser concert features performances by activist Gaye Adegbalola, Gina Coleman and Misty Blues

Adegbalola is traveled to the Berkshires on Friday, Oct. 6, to perform in a benefit for R.O.P.E. (Rights of Passage and Empowerment), a mentorship program for young women of color and young people identifying as female or non-binary.
The Berkshire Eagle

FRESHGRASS REVIEW: Sunny War performs an atmospheric, slow-burn set with an inimitable tone

Smooth and sharp, minimalist but inspired and mellow yet forceful: Sunny War’s set was as paradoxically powerful as the artist’s name would indicate.

The Berkshire Eagle

Black Legacy Project celebrating release of its first album and tour with live show at the Guthrie Center

The Black Legacy Project released their album on September 22, and performed at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, where the project began.

The Berkshire Eagle

Singer-songwriter Buffalo Nichols to celebrate sophomore album release at FreshGrass Festival

The Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter graced the stage during the annual three-day FreshGrass Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts 

The Berkshire Eagle

How has Jacob Ming-Trent become one of the country’s foremost classical actors? By embracing the legacy of Tupac Shakur

Jacob Ming-Trent starred in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the New Spruce Theater in Lenox (70 Kemble Street).

The Berkshire Eagle

Massachusetts State House Presents Award-Winning Exhibition “Reinventing Rockwell and Beyond”
by Pops Peterson

The Massachusetts State House is thrilled to announce the highly anticipated exhibition “Reinventing Rockwell and Beyond” by renowned artist Pops Peterson, running now through October 16.

The Berkshire Eagle

For 10 years, Keith Hamilton Cobb has explored an ‘American Moor.’ After bringing it to Tanglewood, he might be ready to let go


Keith Hamilton Cobb was working on a staging of his play “American Moor” — which will be seen at Tanglewood.

The Berkshire Eagle

DANCE REVIEW: At Jacob’s Pillow, contemporary hip-hop artists celebrate the art form’s 50th anniversary with spins, breaks and flips


Joshua Culbreath in “Nuttin’ but a Word,” with Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater, in the 2023 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

The Berkshire Eagle

Steve Sumpter ready for his shot at James Perkins and another belt, the IBA Americas Super Middleweight Champion

Steve Sumpter out of Pittsfield (8-0, 7 KOs) will be fighting James “Pitbull” Perkins (12-0-1, 9 KOs) in “Pandemonium at the Palladium” in Worcester. It will be an eight-round bout between two undefeated up-and-comers for the vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Americas Super Middleweight belt.

The Berkshire Eagle

Tony Award-winner Lillias White aims to bring a little bit of everything — R&B, jazz, Broadway — to Mr. Finn’s Cabaret


On Sunday and Monday, Aug. 13 and 14, she’s debuting “An Evening with Lillias White” at Mr. Finn’s Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company.

The Berkshire Eagle

During the pandemic quarantine, neoclassical pianist BLKBOK learned to be a solo artist and finished his first album

Neoclassical pianist brings his solo compositions to Mass MoCA’s Club B10.

The Berkshire Edge

Shanae Watkins at Simon’s Rock

Simon’s Rock presents activist and author Shanae Watkins as the Keynote speaker for the Symposium on Social Justice and Inclusion.


ANCHORING EQUITY: Q+A with Charles Redd of Berkshire Health Systems

MHA’s Anchoring Equity blog series profiles the work of our members as they work to advance health equity, diversity and inclusion in their organizations and in their communities.

A 52-acre “innovation district” in Pittsfield is being built at the former GE site

The Berkshire Innovation Center and other local stakeholders have big plans for this empty Pittsfield business park. They want to build an “innovation district” and reclaim the region’s history as a hub when companies like General Electric called it home and employed around 13,000 at its height.

Berkshire Magazine


The MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board was commissioned by the Executive Office of Labor & Workforce Development to identify the region’s critical career pathway opportunities. The board—co-chaired by Boulger, Berkshire Community College (BCC) President Ellen Kennedy, and 1Berkshire President/ CEO Jonathan Butler—had active engagement from its partners in education and economic development. The result was the “Berkshire Workforce Blueprint,” which has been used by organizations to apply for training resources and workforce initiatives and to guide post-secondary and adult training curriculum. The board is accountable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has to provide annual reports.(pictured left: Melissa Melbe, Culinary Arts, Taconic High School, Class of ’20.)

the berkshire eagle

REVIEW: ‘Blues For An Alabama Sky’ flows smoothly at Barrington Stage

PITTSFIELD — In the waning days of the Harlem Renaissance, with the Great Depression snapping at its heels, Champagne and bootleg booze flow like water from a faucet in the Harlem apartment of Guy Jacobs, a thirtysomething gay costume designer who has aspirations of designing for the great Black American expatriate entertainer Josephine Baker, the toast of Paris.
the berkshire eagle

Pittsfield’s Quintin Sumpter to box against Sean Bey in Worcester for “Punch-out at Polar Park”

After fighting far from home for his last few matches, one thing Sumpter is looking forward to is how close, comparatively speaking, Worcester is to Pittsfield. At a two-hour drive, he’s hoping to get a strong contingent out to see him.
the berkshire eagle

Mount Greylock Regional School graduates given a musical farewell

Memorable Moment: The graduation ceremony was punctuated by many musical interludes, starting with the Mount Greylock Orchestra that greeted attendees in the school’s main foyer as they arrived.
the berkshire eagle

Geivens Dextra, winner of the 2023 Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship, finds ways to tell stories through music

PITTSFIELD — When Geivens Dextra thinks about the future, he can practically hear it. One of his dreams is to work on film scores — the more fantastical the better.
the berkshire eagle

16 students graduate from McCann Technical School Post Secondary programs

Graduating Students: 16

Cosmetology: 9

Dental Assisting: 5

Medical Assisting: 1

Surgical Technology: 1

the berkshire eagle

Why hiring young people for summer jobs is a good idea

PITTSFIELD — When I was growing up, everyone in my neighborhood had a summer job.

It meant independence and extra money in your pocket. It was the first time many of us learned about the importance of hard work, responsibility and accountability. 

the berkshire eagle

The Pittsfield mother-daughter duo behind the TikTok account @realmomtalks go viral with their #mommyroasts videos

PITTSFIELD — “When I say it’s time to go, it’s time to go.” With a finger wag, and eyebrows furled, 10-year-old Imari Semaj Westbrook delivers her line just one beat short of an impatient foot tap. It’s less of a line and more of an observation — she’s imitating her mother, Brett Westbrook, who is filming the clip on her phone.
the berkshire eagle

Misty Blues to record tribute album to Odetta during live performances at Studio 9

NORTH ADAMS — Gina Coleman vividly remembers when she met her idol, Odetta Holmes, the renowned folk singer and civil rights advocate who took the genre by storm during the 1960s and 70s. She performed with, and inspired, musicians like Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Pete Seeger.
federal reserve bank of boston

Boston Fed LELE team launches grant program to support entrepreneurs of color

After several unsuccessful attempts to open an ice cream shop, Ludwig Jean-Louis spotted a “for sale” sign by Cravin’s Soft Serve & Frozen Yogurt while driving through his town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in early 2022.
editor and publisher

Why are we stalling when it comes to DEI?

A Black Christian minister, a Jewish rabbi and a gay woman who have been friends for over 20 years meet up at their favorite restaurant.
the berkshire eagle

Devine Berkshires is the first Black-owned pot shop in the Berkshires. It’s also a do-it-yourself success story set in Egremont

EGREMONT — There are no pricey consultants or specialty lawyers. There is no corporate machinery. Heidi and Ari Zorn stepped, nearly alone, into the regulatory maze required to open a cannabis shop.

the berkshire eagle

Students at Lee Elementary jump around with world champion rope-skipper Nick Woodard

LEE — Nick Woodard stands in the gym at Lee Elementary School with both ends of a jump-rope in his hands. Before he really shows off what he can do, he needs to know something first: How much energy is in the room right now?

“If you answer my question right, I’m going to keep jumping,” Woodard said. “If you answer it wrong, I’m going to go home. I don’t want to go home yet. Here’s the question — are you ready for a show?”

the boston globe

Having suffered the agony of defeat before, Taconic finally breaks through to savor the thrill of victory in the Division 5 boys’ championship

LOWELL — After knocking on the door for years, Taconic finally broke through on Saturday evening with a Division 5 state title.

The Pittsfield vocational school held off a spirited effort from previously unbeaten David Prouty, surviving with a 53-51 victory at the Tsongas Center.

the berkshire eagle

Mass MoCA’s Assets for Artists joins forces with Pittsfield to create artist grant

NORTH ADAMS — Otha Day was self-employed, making his living as a musician teaching and playing classical piano when he had a stroke in 2003.

Unable to make money, he had to make a career shift.

“I couldn’t lift a bowl of cereal,” he said during a recent interview.

the berkshire eagle

Pittsfield’s Jamer Jones is the new Massachusetts Middleweight Boxing Champion

On Feb. 18, Jamer Jones had been touching up his opponent for the better part of three minutes. With little time left, Anthony Andreozzi threw a punch which Jones managed to avoid and countered with a jab that Andreozzi couldn’t.
Lever entrepreneurship + innovation


For A.J. Enchill, the president and executive director of the Berkshire Black Economic Council (BBEC), economic development for Berkshire County and building up Black entrepreneurs and businesses go hand in hand.

“The makeup of our community in Berkshire County is changing,” Enchill said. “If we ever want to close the wealth gap and uplift this economy, we need to have a diverse plethora of racial makeup in our industries. It’s going to take Black and minority businesses, and other white-owned mom-and-pops, filling up our vacant storefronts.”

the berkshire eagle

If you missed eating BiggDaddy’s famous Philly cheesesteaks, you’re in luck: BiggDaddy’s is reopening, this time in North Adams

NORTH ADAMS — The key to a good sandwich: the bread.

That’s according to Berkshire chef Xavier Jones, who will soon be serving up Philly cheesesteaks in the Berkshires once again, and on bread imported from Philadelphia.

In late April, Jones and two other co-owners, Warren Dews Jr. and Dully Saimbert, are opening BiggDaddy’s Philly Steak House on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s campus in a space that was occupied by A-OK Barbecue until it closed last year. 

the berkshire eagle

At Mass MoCA, South African dancers will represent the elements in an 8-hour performance

NORTH ADAMS — How does a body dance oxygen? How does a body dance trees breathing out and people breathing in — the invisible balance that keeps us alive?

South African choreographers/dancers Thulani Chauke and Albert Fana Tshabalala will find out in North Adams as they improvise together.

the boston globe

I’d heard Pittsfield was experiencing a rebirth. So I went and saw for myself.

PITTSFIELD — For nearly all of the late aughts, I had spent every other winter weekend at Nonna’s house in Pittsfield. Nonna was my friend Eric’s maternal grandmother, but I knew her by no other name. If you’d asked me in 2008 how to spend a weekend in Pittsfield, I’d have suggested Friday-night lasagna at Nonna’s, or a warm bowl of Saturday morning tortellini soup before a ski session at Jiminy Peak, a few towns over.
the berkshire eagle

‘Members made this happen’

Greylock Federal Credit Union (Greylock) makes no secret of its commitments to supporting the local community. But it’s not until you see them laid out on the page — or 16 pages, to be more precise — that the full scope of the 88-year-old institution’s contributions become apparent.

In its 2022 Impact Report, published this month, Greylock outlines its many community-centric initiatives from the past year, ranging from monetary donations to special loans, educational programs and research projects. 

the berkshire eagle

Pittsfield’s Jamer Jones is new to boxing but ready for his shot on the big stage

Pittsfield has found itself in a little bit of a boxing renaissance. Steve and Quintin Sumpter have been fighting out of the largest city in the Berkshires, with Steve winning the Massachusetts Light Heavyweight Title in November.

Now a new fighter is taking the Massachusetts stage and he, too, will have a shot at a state title. Pittsfield’s Jamer Jones (2-1, 2 KOs) will be boxing on Saturday at Melrose Memorial Hall in Melrose, Mass. The Taconic graduate will be challenging Massachusetts State Middleweight Champion, Anthony “The Gentle Savage” Andreozzi (4-2, 1 KO) for his belt. 

iberkshires youtube

Berkshire Black Economic Council Announces Grant Recipients

Congratulations to all the grant recipients! Click the link below to watch the video.

the berkshire eagle

Six Pittsfield small-business owners land $4,000 grants designed to support economic equality

PITTSFIELD — Six local small-business owners received a $4,000 boost from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Leaders for an Equitable Pittsfield as part of a grant program aimed at supporting economic equality in the commonwealth’s smaller cities.
the Columbia Paper

The Columbia Paper sold to local community news publisher

GHENT—Newspaper owner and editor Parry Teasdale has agreed to sell The Columbia Paper, a weekly in the Town of Ghent, NY, and the news website to Capital Region Independent Media, LLC for an undisclosed amount. Capital Region is headed by Mark Vinciguerra, a veteran media executive.


Berkshire Black Economic Council Announces Grant Recipients

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Black Economic Council made its first grant awards to six organizations on Wednesday evening.

The Leaders for Equitable Pittsfield recipients are Maggie Sadoway Immigrant Co-op leader Maria Arias, Gustitos Boricuas/La Cocineras Latinas owner Miriam Orengo, Grice Beauty owner Ranish Grice, Guelce Marketing Collaborative owner Jocelyn Guelce, Cravins Ice Cream owner Ludwig Jean-Louis, and Berkshire International Market owner Goundo Behanzin. 

the berkshire eagle

Pittsfield community leaders gather at Park Square to call for change after the police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn.

As Pittsfield community leaders spoke to a crowd of protesters on the sidewalk in Park Square, Kamaar Taliaferro took to the streets. When others saw what he was doing, they stood alongside him.
the boston globe

Black History Month Film Festival

Now in its third year, The Boston Globe’s Black History Month Film Festival will honor and celebrate the lives, culture, and creativity of Black Americans through film. Both classic and new works will be made available for virtual viewing throughout the month. Each screening will also be followed by a virtual panel event to provide insight and context for these stories of strength, joy, and love. Join Globe writers and editors, filmmakers, and talent for these five installments.

the berkshire eagle

The Slaughter family is back at it again, helping the kids of Pittsfield — this time with a free after-school program

PITTSFIELD — By the time Manny Slaughter gets home each day, he’s just about ready to go to bed.

Between his day job at Alternative Living Centers and running the After School Homework and Mentorship Program, he’s certainly got enough to keep him busy. But the payoff is worth the effort. 

the emancipator

Talking to Your Kids About Race – Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

What are we saying to our kids about race even when we don’t say anything? Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, explains how it is a false choice whether or not to teach your young child about race because either way, they’re picking up on your attitude about race. Kids notice when their mom only has White friends, or when their teacher treats certain students differently. Eventually they’ll see a pattern in how lighter-skinned people get to live richer, healthier lives than darker-skinned people. Kendi says to raise antiracist children, parents must lead by example and teach their kids that racial disparities exist because of bad rules, not bad people.
the berkshire eagle

Groundbreaking Black woman doctor was born in Great Barrington. Advocates want her on a postage stamp

GREAT BARRINGTON — The image of a town native who broke ground in medicine, as well as for women and people of color, might end up on a U.S. stamp.
the berkshire eagle

Taconic, Pittsfield boys make major moves upward in MIAA basketball power ratings

The Taconic and Pittsfield High School boys basketball teams are two of the biggest noisemakers as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association released its second set of power ratings Tuesday morning.
the berkshire eagle

Building a ‘beloved community’ proves a central theme of local college’s MLK Day of Service in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — If these walls could talk, volunteer Laura Harbin-Waters thinks they’d have a lot to say.

Harbin-Waters stood alongside other volunteers at the Habitat for Humanity property at 58 Gordon St., white primer dripping from rollers and brushes as the crew was tasked with coating the second floor. The act, she said, was more than meets the eye. 

the berkshire eagle

How young Pittsfield writers find their inner ‘Fireside’ poet

PITTSFIELD — The poems are there, inside these young Pittsfield authors. They just need coaxing.

That’s a given for leaders of the Fireside program, which since 2017 has helped elementary students blossom as writers, with support from The Mastheads, the humanities program based at Arrowhead, former home of writer Herman Melville. 

the berkshire eagle

Pathbreaking Black feminist and noted thinker bell hooks honored by MCLA poster project

NORTH ADAMS — “Communion with life begins with the earth,” a blue poster declares to those who pass by MCLA’s Design Lab.


Berkshires Beat: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service will look different this year throughout the county with COVID-19 altering annual cleanups and gatherings.
the berkshire eagle

Esports seen as pathway to boost diversity in STEM careers

A growing effort to channel students’ enthusiasm for esports toward preparing them for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math could address the lack of racial diversity in STEM careers.

As a kid, Kevin Fair would take apart his Nintendo console, troubleshoot issues and put it back together again — experiences the Black entrepreneur says represented “a life trajectory changing moment” when he realized the entertainment system was more than a toy.

the berkshire eagle

This is what Kwanzaa celebrates. For young people in Pittsfield, the messages resonate

PITTSFIELD — On Thursday night, Cashey Young, 16, could hardly contain her nerves leading up to her first Kwanzaa performance.

Young had spent the week reflecting on the African-American holiday in preparation. “It’s great that there’s a holiday that celebrates everybody who’s Black. Uniting with Black people is really important for me, because alone we can’t accomplish what we can do together,” she said. 

the berkshire eagle

County hoop legend Tank Roberson talks his career, state of basketball in Pittsfield and Berkshire County

On weekends at Pine Manor College, Taverick “Tank” Roberson practiced in the basketball gym while his teammates and friends were out partying. Roberson, a New England Basketball Hall of Famer and one of the best high school basketball players in Pittsfield history, had a work ethic that separated him from the rest.
the berkshire eagle

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn named ‘chief of the year’ by state group

PITTSFIELD — Michael J. Wynn is a trade association’s “chief of the year” for 2022. The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association announced on social media that Wynn, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Pittsfield Police Department, had been selected unanimously for an award that “recognizes the police chief that genuinely stood out that year.”

Pittsfield Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Office Has Successful First Year

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.
The Boston Globe

Black male teachers can make a big difference in the lives of their students — why are they so rare?

Over the last decade, Boston Public Schools has sought to diversify its teaching staff with a teaching fellowship, a training pipeline to help paraprofessionals and substitutes become classroom teachers, and affinity groups for underrepresented teachers, all aimed at retaining staff of color.
Berkshire Eagle

Monument Mountain speeds clear of Drury in second half

NORTH ADAMS — Give the Spartans an inch and you’re going to need a tape measure.

The Monument Mountain boys hit their stride in the middle of the third quarter and broke free of the Blue Devils, going on to win, 77-49, Monday night. 



Penniman tells us a story about race and the food system and how we can decolonize and re-indigenize our relationship to land and to food. She reminds us that the land we stand upon is stolen land and that the food system was built upon it with stolen labor. Today, the Black farming movement still faces racism and discrimination, but in spite of that, she says, “we’re trying to reclaim that inherent connection, that right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system.” In order to move toward Black agrarianism and toward new economies for Black and Brown people, repatriation and reparations need to take place. Penniman adds that we need to think seriously about our relationship to the earth, because we have the knowledge and means of indigenous and ancestral methods that can feed the planet without destroying it. She uses examples from Soul Fire Farm, which she co-founded in 2011, to show how it is helping to put an end to racism and injustice in the food system.
berkshire eagle

Mahaiwe adds Robert Cray, Joan Osborne, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams to winter/spring season

GREAT BARRINGTON — Blues guitarist Robert Cray, singer-songwriter Joan Osborne and classic rock duo Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams will take the stage at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center this spring.
berkshire eagle

Jerome Edgerton takes over helm of Pittsfield High boys basketball program

PITTSFIELD — Marching orders for the Generals this winter will come from a new source. The Pittsfield High boys basketball program has been to three Western Massachusetts championship games this century, and Jerome Edgerton was a part of two of them during his playing days. Now, he’ll try to right the PHS ship from the sidelines as the program’s new head coach.
berkshire eagle

Pittsfield’s Ciany Conyers signs to play D-I basketball

For Ciany Conyers, the long journey from Valentine Road in Pittsfield to Hoosick and Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., has paid off.

Conyers, who helped Taconic win a Western Massachusetts Division II championship in 2020, signed her National Letter of Intent back on Nov. 10, to play Division I basketball at Siena College, over in Loudonville, N.Y. 

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Pittsfield’s Steve Sumpter is the Massachusetts State Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion

SPRINGFIELD — It was a long wait, the doors opened at 6 o’clock at the MassMutual Center, amateur fights started at seven and the pro bouts began at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Plus the Massachusetts State Light Heavyweight Title Fight was the penultimate match, which began at 10:15 p.m. and lasted the full eight scheduled rounds.
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Social worker Jason Cuyler heads a program that helps people find a new path after they are released from jail

PITTSFIELD — For the formerly incarcerated, the first 72 hours of freedom can be as difficult as the sentence they’ve just finished.

This is the period when ex-cons are most likely to take the steps that lead them to re-offend, according to law enforcement authorities. They have two choices: Return to the environment that got them into trouble in the first place, or choose an alternative path that allows them to become a productive member of society. 

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MCLA appoints social work professor and alum Jean Clarke-Mitchell to board of trustees

NORTH ADAMS — Jean Clarke-Mitchell, an assistant professor of social work at Lesley University in Cambridge, has been nominated to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ board of trustees.

A 2000 graduate of MCLA, Clarke-Mitchell is currently serving her second term on the college’s foundation board. 

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Castle of our Skins set to make its debut at the Tanglewood Learning Institute

LENOX — Castle of our Skins, a Boston-based Black arts institution dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music, will make its first appearance at the Tanglewood Learning Institute 3 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Linde Center for Music and Learning.
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Two with Berkshire County connections named to Healey’s transition team

BOSTON — Two people with Berkshire County connections have been named to a jobs and economy panel that Gov.-elect Maura Healey has formed as part of her transition team. Alfred “A.J.” Enchill Jr., the president of the Berkshire Black Economic Council, and Cheshire native Jondavid “J.D.” Chesloff, the CEO of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable have been named to the four-member panel.
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In Pittsfield, Kimberly Budd, chief justice of state’s highest court, talks about her job, precedent and the impact of COVID-19

PITTSFIELD — Local officials and civic leaders Thursday were paid a visit by Kimberly Budd, the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Budd was appointed chief justice by Gov. Charlie Baker months into the pandemic, in 2020, when she became the youngest chief justice of the high court in the past 150 years and the first Black woman to lead it.

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Steve Sumpter is ready for chance, the Pittsfield fighter has a chance at the Mass. Light Heavyweight Boxing Championship on Saturday in Springfield

So much for the slow buildup. The come-up for young fighters is tough and there’s a need to have an impressive win-loss record. So it’s commonplace for up-and-comers to avoid each other. Because an early loss might end your career before it begins.

Steve Sumpter (6-0, 6 KOs) got the memo, but he doesn’t care.

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‘There’s something about a childhood friend you just can’t replace.’ A West Side photo essay by Courtney R. Hamilton

PITTSFIELD — Today, I am sharing images that I feel capture the essence of being a kid. And the importance of creating bonds that can build lifelong friendships.
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Jamelle Bouie: Why I keep coming back to Reconstruction

I write frequently about the Reconstruction period after the Civil War not to make predictions or analogies but to show how a previous generation of Americans grappled with their own set of questions about the scope and reach of our Constitution, our government and our democracy.

The scholarship on Reconstruction is vast and comprehensive. But my touchstone for thinking about the period continues to be W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Black Reconstruction,” published in 1935 after years of painstaking research, often inhibited by segregation and the racism of Southern institutions of higher education.

Baker-Polito Administration Announces $143 Million for Economic Development Projects Through Community One Stop for Growth

PITTSFIELD — Today, Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Undersecretary of Community Development Ashley Stolba and MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera were joined by state and local officials in Pittsfield to announce more than $143 million in grant awards to support 337 local economic development projects in 169 communities. The grant awards were made through Community One Stop for Growth, a single application portal that provides a streamlined, collaborative review process of 12 state grant programs that fund economic development projects related to community capacity building, planning and zoning, site preparation, building construction and infrastructure. 

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Berkshire Black Economic Council holds Speed Networking Expo to increase the visibility of Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses in the Berkshires

PITTSFIELD — About 15 years ago, Hayford Osafo started Integrity Tax and Accounting Services from his basement after he noticed that people around him needed bookkeeping help.

Now his office on Tyler Street offers accounting and financial services and help for those starting businesses, he told a group of about half a dozen people representing other Berkshire businesses potentially interested in his services.

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‘A treasure of untold value’: Frances Jones-Sneed honored with 2022 Governor’s Award in the Humanities

Frances Jones-Sneed, the celebrated scholar and educator, joked that on Sunday she was surrounded by her “roadies.”

And, indeed, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where she was an honoree in the 2022 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities, Jones-Sneed of North Adams had her support crew with her. In tandem to the award itself, her wide and varied crew served as testament to the mark she has made on the world. 

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‘Cadillac Crew’ reclaims the stories of forgotten women leaders who fought for desegregation and women’s rights

LENOX — During that tumultuous era of civil rights struggles that was the 1960s — and perhaps still is — carloads of Black and white women drove Cadillacs around the American South talking with women in their living rooms about voting and standing up to the injustices in their lives.

Award-winning Boston playwright Tori Sampson turned this little-known story into the play “Cadillac Crew,” now receiving only its second professional production by WAM Theatre at Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Playhouse through Oct. 29.

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31 people from 26 countries. All of them are now American citizens, after a Stockbridge naturalization ceremony

STOCKBRIDGE — Samuel Donkor heard his phone ring with what his caller ID warned him was “potential spam.” He still took the call. “Hello?”

“Congratulations, you’re now an American citizen!” said the voice on the other end of the line. 

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Berkshire hip-hop artists unite to release full-length album ‘Corona Diaries,’ a collaboration 20 years in the making

GREAT BARRINGTON — Twenty years after they first met, things have come full circle for local hip-hop artists Quintavious Walls, Regi Wingo, Eric Shuman and Jackson Whalan.

Together, as BRK BRD, Walls, aka Carolina Black, Wingo aka Dominik Omega, Shuman aka D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C., and Whalan recently released the full-length album, “Corona Diaries” featuring 10 songs and three interludes, with themes spanning the importance of family, racial identity, politics and the pandemic. 


The Black Legacy Project is using music to spark collaboration and bring communities together in harmony

Victor Blackwell shows us two champions tapping into music’s power to evoke empathy, spark collaboration and promote dialogue. Trey Carlisle and Todd Mack started The Black Legacy Project to form racially diverse groups of musicians who build understanding of historically Black songs and contemporary works, and inspire their audiences to do the same.
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Photographer Courtney R. Hamilton captures the West Side of Pittsfield’s familiar faces

PITTSFIELD — Born and raised on the West Side, I have had the opportunity to see the changes in the area over the years.

As a kid, I remember the West Side as a place full of family and friends. There was always music playing, the smell of a grill going, kids playing in the streets or at the parks. 

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West Africa meets the West Side of Pittsfield at the new restaurant House of Seasoning Grill

PITTSFIELD — A taste of West Africa has arrived on the West Side of Pittsfield.

Raissa and Mathieu Doumbia, a married couple originally from the West African nation of Ivory Coast, recently opened House of Seasoning Grill at 117 Seymour St., the site of the former Friends Grille. 

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Harlem Quartet focused on bringing diversity to classical music

HUDSON, N.Y. — Born in Havana to renowned conductor composer Guido López-Gavilán and late concert pianist Teresita Junco, at age 14, the Afro-Cuban virtuoso Ilmar Gavilán left his island home to study in Moscow and Spain, before settling in the United States.
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CNN’s Champions for Change Returns for 6th Year

Trey Carlisle and Todd Mack / The Black Legacy Project

Victor Blackwell shows us two champions tapping into music’s power to evoke empathy, spark collaboration and promote racial harmony. Trey Carlisle and Todd Mack started The Black Legacy Project to form racially diverse groups of musicians who build understanding by creating modern interpretations of historically Black songs. Through roundtables and performance, The Black Legacy Project enables musicians of different backgrounds to listen to one another, recognize their interdependence and inspire their audiences to do the same. 

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Mass MoCA’s fall season includes a massive roller coaster-inspired exhibit, concerts, a world-premiere dance and performance art

At the heart of “Brake Run Helix” is a rideable sculptural roller coaster. Filling Building 5’s 100-yard-long gallery, the exhibit also includes paintings, a stage for performances, and freestanding sculptures inspired by the form and function of roller coasters. Hill’s practice focuses on experiences that intermingle public struggle, endurance, trauma, and joy, whether within athletics, religion, the American education system or amusement parks. In the United States, amusement parks were contested sites throughout Jim Crow-era desegregation efforts for equitable access to pleasure, leisure and recreation.

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Women and minority entrepreneurs face special challenges. These specialized grants can help close the gap

The economy is challenging for small-business owners. Companies owned by minorities and women have been among the hardest hit as they have been underserved and overlooked.


One year ago, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was honored to receive a $300,000 award from the Wells Fargo Foundation to support its rapidly expanding Assets for Artists program. The two-year grant supports a broad spectrum of the Assets for Artists program activities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut needed to meet more-than-doubled demand for their artist support services at this time of high need.

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Lots of people except Elizabeth Freeman have told her story. In Sheffield, scholars will talk about why that’s been a problem

SHEFFIELD — A roundtable of Black history scholars will talk next week about the way Elizabeth Freeman’s legacy has been mythologized in a way that confines her story to a narrative that might not be entirely accurate.

Freeman never told it herself, and there might not be enough historical material to work with.

On August 19 the W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy will present this first in a series of events to honor Freeman’s journey as a way into a larger conversation about ethical storytelling of African American history. 

Rural Intelligence


Contributed by the Mahaiwe. Photos by Julia Kaplan.
Friends of the historic Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington gathered on July 30 to celebrate the organization’s past, present, and future with — what else? — gorgeous music. Some 600 people attended the Mahaiwe’s 2022 gala, which included dinner under a tent on nearby Memorial Field and a multiple-standing-ovation performance by world-acclaimed vocalist Renée Fleming, who performed a range of arias and modern numbers, from Händel’s “Bel piacere e godere” from Agrippina to “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.”

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The Berkshire Black Economic Council Provides Hope for Black-Owned Businesses and Future Generations of Entrepreneurs

Berkshire Bank recognizes the importance of financial growth opportunities for both individuals and businesses. As a community bank, we are driven by our sense of purpose to help raise the economic potential of our surrounding communities. During Black Business Month in August, we celebrate the more than 2 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, including many of our customers and community partners. In Berkshire County, MA, the operational hub of Berkshire Bank, the Berkshire Black Economic Council (BBEC) is working with Black-owned businesses and future generations of Black entrepreneurs to help them reach their dreams while paying it forward. 

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Massachusetts is 18th state to ban discrimination based on one’s natural hairstyles

As Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation barring discrimination on the basis of a person’s natural hairstyle or hair texture into law in his office Tuesday afternoon, twin sisters Deanna and Mya Cook, 21, smiled with pride and joy.

“I never thought we’d be here,” Deanna Cook, in tears, told the dozens of legislators, activists, and reporters gathered for the historic moment. “To be here and know that no one will go through what we did again, it means more than the world.” 


The agriculture commissioner is coming to visit. We asked Berkshire farmers about the obstacles they face — and possible solutions

Grant programs are laced with cumbersome red tape. The high cost of housing makes it difficult for laborers to live in the communities where they work. Smaller farmers have a hard time accessing capital.

Those are among the challenges some Berkshire County farmers say they routinely face. And Wednesday, they’ll have a chance to talk about those issues with the state’s top agriculture official.

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Center plans to give W. E. B. Du Bois and other Black Berkshirites the credit they’re due

GREAT BARRINGTON — Tucked in among the downtown’s commercial buildings is an old, shingle-style church with peeling white paint and a 30-foot tower out front.

Its dilapidated condition belies its historical importance. The Clinton AME Zion Church served as a gathering place and spiritual home for Black Berkshirites for nearly 130 years, a refuge from discrimination, its pulpit a platform for pastors’ antilynching campaigns, and its basement hall a venue for social events. A National Register of Historic Places landmark, the church closed in 2014 and fell into disrepair. 

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Diversity lacking at Berkshire arts and cultural venues, survey from the Black Arts Council of the Berkshire Black Economic Council shows

STOCKBRIDGE — Berkshire County has several well-known cultural venues. But what those sites don’t have is a lot of Black visitors.

According to a survey conducted by the Black Arts Council of the Berkshire Black Economic Council 47 percent of the respondents had never been to Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, 43 percent had never gone to Tanglewood in Lenox and 33 percent had never traveled to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. And those weren’t the highest numbers. 

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Don’t let politicians take the Black community for granted, panelists at a Tyringham talk about how to protect the vote explain

TYRINGHAM — Protecting the vote of Black citizens involves a lot more than ensuring their ballots are counted.

It involves deeper work by entire communities to encourage people of color to vote by showing them that their opinion matters, that they are counted as people, that they have a stake — and that even subtle barriers to their running for office are removed, said panelists at a “Protecting the Vote” discussion at the Tyringham Union Church Saturday. 

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A Pittsfield elementary school needed to help pandemic-weary kids get along. Here’s how they changed the vibe

PITTSFIELD — When students at Crosby Elementary School were having a difficult time returning to school after a year of virtual learning, school leaders decided to launch a diversity, equity and inclusion read-aloud program.

Staff say the program has reminded students that school is a place where they are loved and celebrated. 

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AThe new owner of the ice cream shop Cravins in Pittsfield, Ludwig Jean-Louis, is caring for his siblings one ice cream scoop at a time

PITTSFIELD — Responsibility isn’t a choice for Ludwig Jean-Louis, it’s a necessity.

After his mother, Roselie, died at age 51 in March 2021, Jean-Louis became in charge of the finances for his four younger siblings. That’s a big task for anyone at any age, let alone someone who is 26.

But Jean-Louis had always been interested in becoming an entrepreneur. That passion is what motivated him to recently purchase Cravins Soft Serve & Frozen Yogurt, a small, popular ice cream stand on Elm Street where he, his siblings, including 18-year-old twin sisters, and two of his cousins are all part of an eight-member workforce. 

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Cam Stockton promoted to program director at Boys & Girls Club

PITTSFIELD — Cam Stockton has been promoted to program director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires.

In this role, Stockton will be responsible for all youth programming at the Boys & Girls Club and will also serve as camp director at Camp Russell in Richmond. 

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Avie Maloney was a popular waitress at Once Upon A Table in Stockbridge. Now she owns the place

STOCKBRIDGE — For Avie Maloney, it’s been a long, complicated journey from her native Grenada in the West Indies to Stockbridge, where she’s the town’s newest restaurant proprietor. 

After eight years as a waitress at Once Upon a Table — down an alley at 36 Main St. in a shopping plaza called The Mews — Maloney has a clear vision for the popular down-home dining spot, which was founded in 1996 and subsequently owned by Alan and Teresa O’Brient for 23 years.

“I want to give people good food for the money they’re spending, serving a $30 steak that tastes like $60,” she said. “I want everyone to feel welcome here. For patrons, irrespective of possible dietary restrictions, we’re going to take care of you.”

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At the place in Great Barrington where Elizabeth Freeman won her freedom, a street sign in her honor

GREAT BARRINGTON — Roughly 70 years before W.E.B. Du Bois was born, just down the street, Elizabeth Freeman became the first slave to successfully sue for her freedom in Massachusetts.

That historic event took place at a courthouse where Town Hall sits at the corner of Castle and Main streets. 

Now, plans are in motion to honor Freeman by designating the area “Elizabeth Freeman Way.”

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Spectrum news

Pittsfield announces $5.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act grants

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – After months of getting community feedback on how to spend millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funding, the city of Pittsfield announced the first round of grants on Thursday. 

A total of $5.9 million is being given to 18 different nonprofits and cultural groups.

One of the biggest grants went to the Berkshire Black Economic Council, which will use the money to develop programs to support local Black business owners.

“We’ve been working for almost three years as a volunteer-based organization,” said A.J. Enchill, the council’s president and executive director. “And now that we have this capital, we can really begin to look into our future.”

For groups hit especially hard by the pandemic, the funds will help them get their operations back to normal.

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A walk through Pittsfield’s West Side

PITTSFIELD — On the map, this bit of Pittsfield high ground, home to the Powell and Hamilton families, is inked in red. 

“Hazardous,” a label says.

The hazard isn’t crime, including the arson that destroyed the house at Robbins Avenue and Division Street, next to where Courtney R. Hamilton is raising four kids.

The hazard isn’t all of the people going in and out of drug houses, some of whom drive recklessly through this neighborhood and have struck children, spurring parents to holler “Car!” to children playing outside.

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Groundbreaking report exposes ‘redlining’ in Pittsfield’s past

PITTSFIELD — In 1940, residents in an area of the West Side neighborhood petitioned the city in complaint of housing conditions that were dirty and unsafe. 

“A menace to life,” they wrote.

In 1956, the situation had only worsened. Philip Ahern, a Planning Board executive assistant, wrote in an Eagle column that year entitled, “Minorities and Bad Housing,” that the city had both “blighted housing and segregation.”

Commonwealth Magazine

Using art to address social issues

LeLand Gantt’s performance of Rhapsody in Black was an entry point for people in an overwhelmingly White region to talk about race. This compelling one-man show exploring racism, identity, and self-image was presented virtually in 2021 through a Berkshires community collaboration.

Clinton Church Restoration is revitalizing a historic Black church as an African American cultural center rooted in the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois, whose hometown was Great Barrington. This relatively young nonprofit partnered to host Rhapsody in Black with Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, a Great Barrington institution dating to 1904 that is making strides to engage a broader audience with work that fuels community interaction and dialogue. 

Rural Intelligence


Lotetta “Momma Lo” McClennon says running her own restaurant has always been a dream. Even though it took a long time and a lot of struggle, she says Momma Lo’s BBQ, now open right in the middle of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is that dream come true.

Tucked into the back of the well-trafficked Great Barrington House Atrium at 24 Main Street, Momma Lo’s may be humble in size and appearance but is serving up authentic southern-style barbecue the region has been missing.

McClennon is soft spoken and isn’t one to brag about her cooking. Luckily she has two of her sons, Attarilm and Ahmed, working with her. Ahmed, a talented rapper who performs under the name Buddha da Great, is more than happy to serve as his mother’s hype man. It’s clear the men take a lot of pride in their mother’s success.

“We’ve got the flavor, the sauce and the love,” Ahmed says. “This has been a dream of hers for so long. We’re really blessed to be here.” 

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Being a small business owner is difficult, especially for minority-owned businesses. Berkshire Black Economic Council hopes to change that

PITTSFIELD — Warren Dews Jr. has lived in the Berkshires for 11 years. He has been involved in numerous business ventures and serves on several area boards. He knows local bank presidents by their first name.

Yet, when Dews recently tried to obtain a loan to open a cigar lounge in Pittsfield, he found no takers.

Berkshire Magazine


The Berkshire Black Economic Council (BBEC) is a newly incorporated 501 c(3) organization furthering economic justice in Berkshire County. Our mission is to aid and advocate economic development with respect to education, neighborhood revitalization, arts and culture, business ownership, social programming, environmental justice, recruitment, and retention of business in connection with Berkshire Black entrepreneurs.
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Meet the man who Pittsfield city officials hope will champion its diversity, equity and inclusion work

PITTSFIELD — For the better part of two years, Pittsfield has been on a path to transform city business into a more diverse, equitable and inclusive process. That journey may cross a critical milestone this week with the hiring of a chief diversity officer.

The candidate Mayor Linda Tyer is bringing to the City Council for approval this week is a rising political star in North Adams: Michael Obasohan.

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Xavier Jones, the former BiggDaddy’s owner and chef, will open a new restaurant at Adams

ADAMS — Xavier Jones is coming back to Adams, this time to start a restaurant at Park Street’s historic Firehouse Cafe.

Folks might remember the 38-year-old chef from BiggDaddy’s Philly Steak House, which Jones owned and operated in Adams from 2017 to 2018 and in Pittsfield from 2018 to 2019. 

Now, he is returning, alongside business partner Warren Dews Jr., to try something new: a Mediterranean-infused small plates restaurant with a menu that will reflect the cuisines of up to 30 countries.

“This building is a landmark, and we don’t want to be just a restaurant — we want to be a destination,” Jones said. “People go to Lenox for great food. People go to Williamstown for food. We want people to go to Adams and know they can get the same quality of food, even better.”

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Kamaar Taliaferro, a Pittsfield community leader, will be recognized at Black Excellence on the Hill event

PITTSFIELD — Kamaar Taliaferro, of Pittsfield, is among the Black leaders across Massachusetts who will be honored Monday at an event organized by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. 

The caucus holds the Black Excellence on the Hill celebration annually to recognize Black community leaders. Anyone can register at to attend the virtual event at 6 p.m. Monday.

Taliaferro chairs the housing committee of the county NAACP chapter and is a member of Westside Legends.

In a news release, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, who nominated Taliaferro, described him as “often in the background, but very much a leader and team player.”

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New oral history project aims to preserve Black history in the Berkshires

GREAT BARRINGTON — Preserving Black history in the Berkshires often begins with recording people’s stories, and a new oral history project will advance that work.

Oral history interviews are sometimes “the only lasting artifact that we have of a person’s life,” said Frances Jones-Sneed, a professor of history emeritus at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. 

“Most African Americans, most working-class or poor people, don’t have the archive or family papers that our senators or presidents or people who have money to get someone to write their biography have,” she said.

“Quilting Our History: African American Voices of Wisdom and Memory” is a collaboration between Clinton Church Restoration, the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP and the Housatonic Heritage Oral History Center at Berkshire Community College.

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Celtics award $25,000 small business grant to Pittsfield’s Elegant Stitches

Elegant Stitches Inc, a family-owned custom embroidery and screen-printing company based in Pittsfield, MA was the recipient of a $25,000 grant, one of 13 awards the Celtics Shamrock Foundation and Vistaprint distributed to Black-owned small businesses across the New England region.
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“Ain’t I A Woman”

PITTSFIELD — When the Barrington Stage Company approached Shirley Edgerton last year with an idea for a festival celebrating Black voices, she knew what to do. 

Edgerton revisited a piece she’d co-written more than a decade ago with Felicia Robertson that brought audiences face-to-face with the African American women who had shaped this country but were forgotten by its history books.

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Executive Spotlight: Alfred ‘A.J.’ Enchill Jr./Berkshire Black Economic Council

PITTSFIELD — It’s hard to imagine a more qualified local candidate to lead the recently formed Berkshire Black Economic Council than Alfred “A.J.” Enchill Jr.

The Pittsfield native’s father, Alfred Enchill, runs Elegant Stitches, a small Black-owned business in Pittsfield that has been operating for over 20 years. Enchill and his three brothers grew up in the family-owned business and saw firsthand the obstacles that Black-owned businesses in the Berkshires face while trying to develop and sustain themselves.

Berkshire Black Economic Council Announces Debut Event

Next week, the newly formed Berkshire Black Economic Council is holding a kickoff event.

The nonprofit’s stated goal is to serve as an advocacy group for the economic development of Berkshire County’s Black community. “Right now, there’s a lot going on in our community, and there’s good momentum. And still, there’s ways that businesses that are here can further themselves, if they have the right support networks to get them up and running. And so, what we’re trying to do is be that anchor institution that creates that foundation for businesses to thrive,” said Berkshire Black Economic Council President AJ Enchill.
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Slammed by pandemic, small-business owners of color can tap into new fund

PITTSFIELD — The coronavirus pandemic has further tilted the economy toward large corporations, but a new local fund seeks to offer small businesses and nonprofits a lifeline.

Starting Dec. 1, Berkshire County businesses with up to 25 employees can apply for grants of up to $15,000 to cover costs experienced during the pandemic.

“We have struggled to keep the lights on and gas going,” said Penny Walker, who with Frank Walker owns Smokey Divas, a barbecue restaurant at 239 Onota St. “Everybody’s gone but the people who own it. I can’t afford to hire any staff right now.”

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Shirley Edgerton: ROPE offers lifeline of mentorship to young women

The Rites of Passage and Empowerment program is a holistic mentoring program that emphasizes the development of mind, body and spirit and supports adolescent girls in discovering their inner voice. 

Our mission is to celebrate and honor their entry into womanhood via mentorship from women who are culturally aligned, as well as provide them with the skills and knowledge that they need to be successful, independent and responsible women.