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Lines were long but moved all morning and afternoon at the Women's March sister event held Jan. 21, 2017, at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

‘Sister event’ to Women’s March planned in Pittsfield

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By Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018 News

Pittsfield — Last year’s historic Women’s March on Washington has not been forgotten–not by a longshot.

Billed as a sort of counterinauguration shortly after President Donald Trump took the oath of office, the series of demonstrations is estimated to have brought out more than 2.5 million people worldwide, with half a million in Washington alone.

The were hundreds of “sister marches” across the globe and several in or near the Berkshires. Last year’s march in Pittsfield attracted about 1,500 sister marchers, many wearing pussy hats and other colorful protest regalia.

On the one-year anniversary of the iconic movement, Indivisible Pittsfield, a Trump-resistance group advocating for social justice, has organized another sister event to this year’s march–what it calls a “March into Action Resource Fair and Community Forum,” with more than 20 groups participating at the Colonial Theatre on South Street. It will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, Indivisible Pittsfield said in a news release.

Russell Freedman, left, Massachusetts coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America and a resident of Lanesborough, hands out literature at the 2017 Women’s March sister event held at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. Photo: Heather Bellow

“From the Women’s March to the Women’s Convention to the rallies and stand-outs we have organized here in Pittsfield, we’ve seen how powerful we are when we gather together, share space and lift each other up,” said Drew Herzig, co-chair of Indivisible Pittsfield.

Herzig says the group activity will be followed by brief spoken-word performances, leading into a roundtable discussion whose focus will be “Where do we go from here in the Berkshires?” That discussion will feature leaders of various social justice efforts and related organizations in the region.

“Panelists will discuss the important issues facing our community in 2018, how we can build better partnerships to address these issues and how our community can help in the efforts,” Herzig explained.

Kristen van Ginhoven. Photo courtesy WAM Theatre

The panel will include Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru; Pittsfield City Councilor Helen Moon; Berkshire NAACP President Dennis Powell; Geraldine Shen from Greylock Together; Kristen van Ginhoven from WAM Theatre in Lee; and Michael Wise, who chairs the Great Barrington Democratic Town Committee.

Wise told the Edge on Tuesday he is still working on what he would like to talk about, but that a working title is “the health of democracy.”

“They suggested I try an issue I care about,” Wise said, referring to the organizers. “But my biggest concern is to be sure we survive and with our democracy intact.”

Also in attendance will be representatives from the Berkshire Democratic Brigades, Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, Berkshire Immigrant Stories, the Four Freedoms Coalition, Lift Every Vote, Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations, and the United American Muslim Association of the Berkshires.

In addition, spoken-word performances will be shared by artists and representatives from WordXWord and WAM Theatre.

In an interview, Herzig said the issues to be discussed include national matters that have applicability locally and in Massachusetts, including not only gender equity but the environment, funding for public education, access to healthcare and judicial nominations.

“We’re fighting this tidal wave of regression,” Herzig said. “But there is a need to find common ground.”

Indivisible Pittsfield says it “stands for an America that forwards the principles of human decency, respect, and community. Our diversity is our strength.” The group meets regularly and supports activities related to “embracing diversity, justice, and equality while “combating racism, misogyny, homophobia/transphobia, and xenophobia in all its forms.”

Michael Wise, at right, chairman of the Great Barrington Democratic Town Committee. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“Across the country, Women’s March Chapters are organizing exciting anniversary events throughout the anniversary weekend, from marches to legislative actions to community events to voter registration drives,” Herzig said. “We are proud to be hosting one in Pittsfield that brings together so many organizations dedicated to taking positive action.”

Last year, the event was sponsored by WAM Theatre and Berkshire Theatre Group and preceded by a march down North Street to the Colonial Theatre. The event featured a streamed live feed from the Washington march, and had some theatre performances and tables in the lobby for various causes and social media posts. Decency, dignity and respect were prevalent themes.

The goal of organizers was to bring in 100 “sister marchers.” The event website got 450 RSVPs and expectations rose to 600 and, nearing the end, the clicker count had stretched to at least 1,500.

Last year’s event was organized by a local steering committee that included van Ginhoven of WAM Theatre–which focuses on work by female theater artists and stories for women and girls–and volunteers Jayne Benjulian, Lynn Festa and Mary Lincoln.

While the official Women’s March anniversary event this year will take place in Las Vegas, Women’s March chapters are organizing state-specific anniversary events throughout the anniversary weekend, from marches to legislative actions to community events to voter registration drives, Herzig said.

In addition to the Indivisible event in Pittsfield, other towns in the region will be holding events. A handy map on the national Women’s March homepage is your guide. Several are within an hour or less from Berkshire County, including events in Greenfield; Northampton; Albany and Woodstock, New York; and Salisbury, Connecticut.

For Saturday’s event in Pittsfield, doors will open at the Colonial Theatre at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact indivisiblepittsfield@gmail.com.

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