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Pittsfield Students Learn from African-American Role Models in their Community

City of Pittsfield

In recognition of African American History Month, students at one high school in the Berkshires participated in a day of presentations from local African American role models, who shared their own stories with students and reflected on their heritage.

Multicultural BRIDGE – a non-profit organization with a mission to promote diversity understanding and acceptance in area communities, held their first Living African-American History Month Project, through a partnership with Pittsfield High School.

After an opening assembly, students spent time in the classroom with African-American men from the community, from a variety of different backgrounds, from local businesses to law enforcement to academia.

Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant, Executive Director of Multicultural BRIDGE, said that the partnership with Pittsfield High School came in response to some recent racially-charged happenings in the community. VanSant said that the Living African-American History Month Project also celebrates African-American History Month a little differently.  

Tracey Benson is the Principal at PHS…

One of the presenting volunteers was Antoine Alston, a personal trainer, and owner of a fitness center in Great Barrington. Alston said he hoped to communicate to students a simple message.

Thomas Weiland, a white student at PHS, said that in addition to the day’s events, he’s been inspired by a recent forum organized through his school’s  Multicultural Action Team that discussed community diversity and stereotypes. Since then, he’s been trying to share messages of acceptance to his fellow students.

And Chandrick Hayes, a volunteer and hotel general manager in Albany, NY, said that in sharing stories of his background and personal struggles, he came away with something as well.

The Living African-American History Month Project was also sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union. Multicultural BRIDGE and the Multicultural Action Team at Pittsfield High School will hold additional events this spring, celebrating cultural heritage and diversity.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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