Bits & Bytes: Four Freedoms civic participation workshops; W.E.B. Du Bois Educational Series; Steffani Jemison at MASS MoCA; ‘Lenox at 250 years, Panel II;’ Karen Chase talk

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By Thursday, Mar 16 Life In the Berkshires
A still from 'Personal,' a 2014 video created by artist Steffani Jemison. A solo exhibit of Jemison's work will open at MASS MoCA in North Adams on Saturday, March 18 (see item below).

Four Freedoms Coalition to offer free civic participation workshops

Linda Tyer. Photo: Rosanne Frieri

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer. Photo: Rosanne Frieri

Pittsfield — The Four Freedoms Coalition and Berkshire Community College will present a day of free, nonpartisan advocacy trainings on Saturday, April 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at BCC.

Speakers and workshop leaders will include Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Pittsfield City Councilors John Krol and Donna Todd Rivers, Berkshire Brigades co-founders Sherwood Guernsey and Lee Harrison, Shirley Edgerton, Andrea Harrington, Liz Recko-Harrison, Eleanore Velez, Robin Catalano and Megan Whilden. Workshop offerings will include Running for Local Office (or Helping Someone Else To), Writing Effective Letters to the Editor, What is Cultural Competence and How It Can Make You a More Effective Activist, Making Calls to your Legislators, Conversations Across the Political Divide, Civics 101: Local Politics, Social Media Basics, Civics 101: State Politics, Door-to-Door Canvassing, and Civics 101: Federal Politics.

Online registration is available. Lunch will be made available through the BCC cafeteria. For more information, contact lead organizer Becky Meier at (518) 781-4686 or


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W. E. B. Du Bois Educational Series to welcome Dr. Kendra Field

Dr. Kendra Field.

Dr. Kendra Field.

Great Barrington — The W. E. B. Du Bois Educational Series will stage its third event of the 2016-2017 school year on Monday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at Monument Mountain Regional High School with Tufts University scholar Dr. Kendra Field, who will present “African American Family Histories and Silences after Emancipation.” The event will also include spoken word poetry arranged by poet Ted Thomas and performed by Monument Mountain, Pittsfield and Taconic high school students and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Bois biographer Dr. David Levering Lewis, who will introduce Field. The event is free and open to the public.

Field is assistant professor of history and Africana studies and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts. She is a 2016-2017 fellow at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History and the author of the forthcoming book “Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race and Nation after the Civil War.” Field received her Ph.D. in American history from New York University and has been awarded fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Huntington Library. She has received the Huggins-Quarles Award from the Organization of American Historians and appeared in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s 2013 PBS documentary “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.” Field also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. from Williams College.


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Steffani Jemison solo exhibit at MASS MoCA

Steffani Jemison, 'Sol,' 2016, inkjet print on photo rag

Steffani Jemison, ‘Sol,’ 2016, inkjet print on photo rag

North Adams — “Plant You Now, Dig You Later,” the largest solo exhibition to date of New York-based artist Steffani Jemison, uses the complicated role of language and literacy in black history to explore narration, abstraction, citizenship, education, and the role of the archive. Jemison presents a sound work and an excerpt from a novella along with her formally stripped-down, conceptually layered and enigmatic photographs and drawings. The works center on alternative language systems constructed by black Americans and examines their subversive potential. The exhibition will open at MASS MoCA on Saturday, March 18, with a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

“Plant You Now, Dig You Later” is organized around a sound installation that uses Solresol, a universal language developed in the early 19th century that was based on the seven notes of the octave. The new work presents melodic interpretations of diverse texts including dictionary entries, quotations from street fiction and other found and invented materials. A related graphic score will be presented alongside the sound work. In addition to her works on acetate, which will stretch down a gallery wall at MASS MoCA and onto platforms on the floor, Jemison will present a selection of photographs along with an excerpt from her ongoing novella printed in vinyl on the wall.

Jemison holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in comparative literature from Columbia University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, the Studio MusCityeum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Drawing Center in New York; LA><ART in Los Angeles; the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Denmark; the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence, Rhode Island; and the Neue Galerie Graz in Austria.

For more information, contact MASS MoCA at (413) 662-2111 or


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‘Lenox at 250 Years, Panel II’

Cornelia Brooke Gilder. Photo: Philip Howard

Cornelia Brooke Gilder. Photo: Philip Howard

Lenox — On Sunday, March 19, at 4 p.m., the Lenox Library’s Distinguished Lecture Series will host “Lenox at 250 Years, Panel II: 1880-present,” which will include panelists Cornelia Brooke Gilder on Sedgwick Hall, Richard S. Jackson Jr. on the Gilded Age, Olga Weiss on the Music Inn and David Roche on the modern era. There will be a question-and-answer period during which audience members will be encouraged to contribute their own knowledge of Lenox history.

Gilder grew up within walking distance of the Lenox Library. She is the co-author of two books with Richard S. Jackson Jr.: “Houses of the Berkshires: 1870-1930” and “The Sesquicentennial History of the Lenox Club.” She co-authored “Hawthorne’s Lenox” with longtime Lenox librarian Julia Conklin Peters. For the past 20 years, she has been a member of the program committee at Ventfort Hall. She moved to Tyringham in 1976 when she married author George Gilder, and serves on the Tyringham Historical Commission. Her next book, “Edith Wharton’s Lenox,” is due out in July.

Jackson is a native of Greenwich, Connecticut, who came to the Berkshires in 1962. He served as assistant Army harbormaster of the port of Saigon during the Vietnam War, and wrote and produced educational films in New York City. He later returned to the Berkshires as president of WBEC Inc. where he regularly wrote and broadcast radio editorials. As past chairman of the Lenox Historical Commission and the Tanglewood Council and member of the Naumkeag committee, Jackson worked to preserve Gilded Age cottages. In recent years, as a real estate agent, he has facilitated the change of ownership of historic properties.

Along with her husband, Robert P. Weiss, Weiss was an owner and manager of Blantyre in the 1970s. The couple partnered with David Rothstein to manage the Music Inn at roughly the same time. She donated substantial acreage abutting Parsons Marsh to the town to be placed in conservation. Currently she is the chair of the Lenox Historical Commission and the 250th Anniversary Committee while also serving on the community preservation and affordable housing committees.

Roche is a third-generation Lenox native. His great-grandfather emigrated from Ireland and became a citizen at the County Court House (now the Lenox Library) in 1860. He was formerly a U.S. Army infantry captain who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. In his varied career, he was a senior vice president at City Savings Bank, an original developer of the Cranwell resort, owner of Berkshire Horseback Adventures, and a consultant to the Berkshire Enterprises program for fledgling businesses. He is running for his third term as a Lenox selectman.

For more information, call the library at (413) 637-2630.


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Author Karen Chase to speak about new book

Karen Chase.

Karen Chase.

Great Barrington — Award-winning author Karen Chase will give a talk on writing and her new book “FDR on His Houseboat: The Larooco Log, 1924-1926on Saturday, April 29, at 10:30 a.m. at Congregation Ahavath Sholom.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921, he withdrew from public life. He spent three winters aboard his houseboat, from 1924 to 1926. While on the boat, he kept a log in longhand in a three-ring binder, writing in it almost daily.

Chase lives in western Massachusetts and is the author of two collections of poems, “Kazimierz Square” and “BEAR,” as well as “Jamali-Kamali,” a book-length homoerotic poem that takes place in Mughal, India. Her award-winning book “Land of Stone” tells the story of her work with a silent young man in a psychiatric hospital where she was the hospital poet. Her memoir, “Polio Boulevard,” was published in 2014.

A brief Shabbat service will precede Chase’s talk at 10 a.m. Admission is free and refreshments will be served. All are welcome. For more information, contact Congregation Ahavath Sholom at (413) 528-4197 or


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