Drums, signs, marchers fill downtown Pittsfield for Elizabeth Freeman Center fundraiser walk against domestic, sexual violence
A fundraiser for a Berkshire County organization that offers 24/7 services for domestic and sexual violence survivors brought a procession through downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts Tuesday night.
Bearing signs and wearing shirts emblazoned with slogans like “silence hides violence” and “love is not abuse,” marchers took to North Street as part of a series of walks around Berkshire County to support the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
“We are doing Rise Together for Safety and Justice in Pittsfield. This is one of six walks that we're doing this year," said Executive Director Janis Broderick. “Rise Together is Elizabeth Freeman Center's major fundraiser and friend raiser. So, we raise money through this event, online and through sponsors, and we also encourage everyone to come out and show their support and involvement in ending domestic, dating, and sexual violence.”
The center offers services to those experiencing abuse or violence in relationships or at home online and over the phone, as well as at its offices in Pittsfield, North Adams, and Great Barrington.
“So far, we've had walks in Great Barrington and Lee, and they were fabulous," Broderick told WAMC. "I think we had over 100 at each. We have this one today, we have a walk in Lenox at 5:30 on Thursday. We had to reschedule our Williamstown and North Adams walks, so they are the following week- Thursday, I believe the 29th, in North Adams, and Friday the 30th in Williamstown.”
At the front of the column of marchers was Jerome Edgerton Jr., beating out a powerful, rolling rhythm on a snare.
“This is about the second year or third year in a row, but really the first time that it was just me solo out there leading the charge," he told WAMC. "So really, it's just the energy. What this event means just as well personally, in a household of women, strong mother, strong three sisters, and just really making sure that their voice is heard. So my job is to bring it through the drums, and that's what I try to do. I try to bring that energy, bring the message that they have and bring it to life through the music and carry that energy through this march.”
“So my sign says: The kids see it, the kids hear it, the kids feel it. Domestic abuse is child abuse," said Connie Rickard, a counselor and advocate at the Elizabeth Freeman Center shelter. “It means to me any child that witnessed domestic violence, it can definitely be damaging to them as they grow up and try to maneuver through their lives. I think the best thing is when children grow up witnessing domestic violence is to try to help them with the things that they've seen and heard.”
Alongside Rickard was Jessica Lojano, who also works at the Elizabeth Freeman Center shelter.
She says it’s a powerful and demanding experience to work with young people in desperate need of stability and security.
“Most of the times from the shelter they transition out, so we don't get to see how they develop afterwards and how they've been doing through school and family wise," Lojano told WAMC. "So, kind of keeping up the work, making sure that the parent is still involved with us and seeing the growth and development that they do. And we do get those nice praises when the old families do come and say hello or just to stop by, and not even to get services, but to really thank us, and we really appreciate that down in the bottom of our hearts.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual violence, you can contact the Elizabeth Freeman Center’s toll-free hotline at 1-866-401-2425.