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Dancing in the park: Berkshire Dems celebrate win by Biden-Harris ticket

But the rally was less a display of merrymaking at the defeat of a president who is a moral affront to most of those who attended and more a celebration of the historic nature of an election that saw the first woman and the first Black American elected vice president.

Pittsfield — What a difference a single political race can make. After seven years of covering mostly angry protests against Donald Trump, General Electric, racial injustice and natural gas pipeline construction, I was treated to a positive and uplifting experience Sunday afternoon as about 100 people gathered in a Pittsfield park to celebrate the election of the Biden-Harris presidential ticket as well as other down-ballot Democrats.

About 100 people attended the event in Pittsfield’s Westside Riverway Park on Sunday. Photo: Terry Cowgill

The election celebration rally was organized in fewer than 24 hours by the Berkshire Democratic Brigades, a countywide grass-roots organization committed to electing Democrats at all levels, and co-sponsored by the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP, Greylock Together and Indivisible Pittsfield.

But the rally was less a display of merrymaking at the defeat of a president who is a moral affront to most of those who attended and more a celebration of the historic nature of an election that saw the first woman and the first Black American elected vice president. Indeed, as a PA system blasted out relevant tunes such as “I Am Woman,” “Dancing in the Streets” and “Celebration, ” public officials and residents danced jubilantly.

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer was elated with the election of Biden and Harris at Sunday’s rally at Westside Riverway Park but cautioned that both sides must seek to understand each other. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Most rallies in Pittsfield are held at Park Square, the city’s historic green smack in the middle of the downtown. This one was held at the Westside Riverway Park, which was created on 2 acres of formerly blighted and vacant land on the city’s historically Black West Side. The land is in the process of being transformed into what the mayor’s office calls “passive parks providing recreational opportunities and common open space for residents in the dense residential neighborhood.”

A more fitting space you could not find for a crowd that wanted four years of a blighted presidency to be transformed into something more just and pleasing to the sensibilities.

Democratic Mayor Linda Tyer, whose office led the initiative that created the Westside Riverway Park, spoke to the crowd, expressing her joy but also cautioning that both sides must seek to understand each other.

See video below of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer addressing the crowd:

“We’re here to celebrate an American historical moment right here in the city of Pittsfield,” Tyer said.

Tyer said she has a number of Trump supporters in her family and added that, “We’ve got a lot of work to do because if we’re honest about what we saw, half the country does not agree with us.”

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, dances at Sunday’s rally in Pittsfield’s Westside Riverway Park. At right is activist Shirley Edgerton. Photo: Terry Cowgill

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, recalled Jan. 21, 2017, when she rode a bus to the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration.

“When I got off that bus, I could see bus after bus going down the highway,” Farley-Bouvier said. “At that moment, I knew that women were not going to stand for what this world had wrought for us and we were going to make a change.”

TraQuon and KeeVon Hall of the Youth Alive Drumline at Sunday’s rally in Pittsfield’s Westside Riverway Park. Photo: Terry Cowgill

After a drum session by TraQuon and KeeVon Hall of the Youth Alive Drumline, cultural proficiency coach, activist and NAACP Berkshires board member Shirley Edgerton recalled the groundbreaking forerunners to Kamala Harris, including Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress.

“She said if a woman don’t have a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” Edgerton said. “Today Kamala does not have to bring a folding chair. She has reserved a seat for us and for our girls for generations to come: vice president of the United States and, eventually, president of the United States.”

See video below of TraQuon and KeeVon Hall of the Youth Alive Drumline, and activist Shirley Edgerton:

Fresh from his own victory over Egremont resident Ari Zorn in an election for the presidency of the local NAACP chapter, Dennis Powell noted that Black people “came out in great numbers to vote.” Powell also reiterated a theme he spoke of at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Great Barrington in June — namely that slaves built the White House.

See video below of Dennis Powell:

“What a beautiful way to end 2020,” Powell mused. “We are going to claim the people’s house. They’re talking about taking down all these racist statues — we need to get rid of the racist name of the White House. It ain’t the White House. Blacks built it. How did it become the White House?”

Community activist Shirley Edgerton. Behind her are Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, far right, and District Attorney Andrea Harrington, second from right. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington, who was first elected in 2018, said Edgerton and Powell first asked her to run against incumbent Paul Caccaviello and “I thought they were a little crazy, but here we are.”

Harrington cited Harris’ record as a reformer of the criminal justice system as San Francisco district attorney. Harrington, who ran on a similar platform, cited others across the nation who have recently been elected or reelected as district attorneys or attorneys general on progressive reform-oriented platforms.

See video of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington:

Gonzalo Bermudez, an immigrant from Colombia, said he wanted to declare that Latin Americans “are standing against Trump and will continue the fight for justice and for social improvement.” Still, he acknowledged cracks in that wall:

“I was horrified, to say the least, when I heard that one of the biggest groups for Trump were the Colombians,” Bermudez gasped, adding that Latinos are not homogeneous. “Oh, my god. I wanted the earth to swallow me.”

See video below of Gonzalo Bermudez:

Also in attendance were at least two public officials from South County: Great Barrington Selectboard member Leigh Davis, whose father, Lloyd Davis, was a noted civil rights leader and federal housing official; and Ben Hillman, a filmmaker, Edge contributor and chair of the Sheffield Democratic Town Committee.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, left, danced with Great Barrington Selectboard member Leigh Davis at the Nov. 8 rally in Pittsfield’s Westside Riverway Park. Photo: Terry Cowgill

After several prominent news organizations projected the Biden-Harris ticket the winner on Saturday, Megan Whilden and other organizers scrambled to make arrangements for Sunday’s rally. For her part, before ending the event, Whilden reminded attendees that there is one important piece of the puzzle still missing: run-off elections for a pair of Senate seats in Georgia.

Neither of Georgia’s Republican senators, both of whom were up for election in the same year, won a majority of the vote on Nov. 3, sending both of their contests to special run-off elections in January, two weeks before Biden’s inauguration. The outcome will likely determine control of the Senate, which could have enormous consequences for the future Biden administration’s ambitious agenda.

Colombian immigrant Gonzalo Bermudez expressed his feelings about the outcome of the presidential election at the Nov. 8 rally at Westside Riverway Park in Pittsfield. Photo: Terry Cowgill
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