Image courtesy BRIDGE

BRIDGE develops ‘New Pathways’ of leadership, organizing in answer to COVID-19

Lee — Since 2007, the Multicultural BRIDGE mission has been “Promoting mutual understanding and respect among diverse groups serving as a resource to both local institutions and the community at large.” As such, the local nonprofit, with its diverse range of programming, serves as a catalyst for change and integration through collaboration, education, training, dialogue, fellowship and advocacy. To meet the particular challenges of this time, co-founder and CEO of Multicultural BRIDGE, Gwendolyn VanSant, has curated a new series of talks and action-focused “labs” called New Pathways for an Equitable Future, aimed at supporting new forms of leadership and organizing during and post-COVID-19. The end result is 20 experts offering 20 different perspectives intended to seed an equitable and resilient future based on justice, healing and transformation. The program launched Monday.

Image courtesy BRIDGE

“My intention is for this series to serve as both an oxygen mask and a set of new goggles for these times,” said VanSant, who, with video production by Outpost, has curated workshops and talks that will address diversity, mindfulness, resilience, perspective and belonging. “Dialogues will be based on intimacy, intentionality and inclusion to support our collective work ahead,” she added. While each speaker brings their own unique wisdom to the table, the collective messages are aligned with the core values at BRIDGE; furthermore the moniker harkens to this timely opportunity “to create new pathways in our hearts, brains, and (thereby) our work,” said VanSant in a written statement promoting participation within the community. She and her staff invite everyone, those new to BRIDGE as well as longtime clients and partners, to avail themselves of the resources that stand to supplement the organization’s core offerings.

“I invite you to support this growing video library of important conversations,” said VanSant, whose line-up includes talks by Malia Lazu (regional president and chief experience and culture officer at Berkshire Bank) to Maria Sirois (an expert in positive psychology and mind/body medicine); the entire line-up, which can be found here, is available to the public free of charge. In addition to the extensive list of conversations (that include speaker bios), VanSant directly addresses, “Why this talk now?” This alluring question is meant to complement each conversation’s invitation for self-reflection. From Thursday, May 21, to Saturday, May 24, to complement the New Pathways talks, a series of webinars, action labs and community conversations will be made available for those who want to take deeper dives and craft action plans; those interested in participating can visit this link to register.

Image courtesy BRIDGE

Perhaps now, more than ever, VanSant is eager to share with new audiences the collective wisdom that exists within our community. “The most marginalized among us are the people who will be the first to be laid off, the first of our community members who will go without what they need for their families to survive,” VanSant wrote in an April 9 blog post; today, nearly six weeks later, the challenges are mounting. At BRIDGE, “we are supporting our minority and women-run nonprofit organization employees and 219 humans in 76 families that are all vulnerable to the socioeconomic and health threats of COVID-19,” said VanSant, who points to the New Pathways series as “one way we are raising awareness of BRIDGE’s work, including the direct work we are actively doing to support families most severely impacted right now” by providing supplies, community, resources, masks, food, resource lists, advocacy, tutoring, translation and check-ins (just to name a few). VanSant, who was named Berkshire Business & Professional Women’s “Woman of the Year” in 2019, penned two pieces — “Creating New Equitable Pathways to the Future” and “Game On! Why Now is Exactly the Time to Invest in Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Work” — that explain why she decided to build this series.

VanSant alludes to “the ripples of change we [can] create together” before delivering a veritable call to action: “‘Game time’ is not later, but now,” she emphasized. “There is simply no time for heteropatriarchal, White supremacist structures that limit our view and paralyze us, forcing some of us to exit stage left or worst, disregarding or even going so far to demonize new, hugely important and potentially hugely impactful work. Now is not the time to mute certain voices simply because they are different from your own.”

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NOTE: In addition to supporting this series, a portion of donations will go toward directly supporting BRIDGE families adversely impacted already by COVID-19. Learn more about other ways to make a contribution supporting communities most impacted right now. Subscribe at the $250 level or $100 level (BRIDGE members only) for a six-month subscription.