Coalition continues fight to preserve rights of marginalized
By DICK LINDSAY
Jan. 08, 2018
PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) — The banner hanging in the sanctuary of First Church of Christ Congregational on Park Square read "4 Freedoms 4 Everyone."
The message in support of freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship and freedom of speech was espoused by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 76 years ago — freedoms jeopardized by the ongoing political upheaval in our nation and nation's capital, according to First Church pastor, Rev. James Lumsden.
"This is not a battle between left and right, but democracy and authoritarianism," he said from the pulpit Sunday afternoon. "Together we give in to love, not to hate or fear."
Lumsden was addressing nearly 350 people to open "Songs and Sounds of Solidarity," a concert of music, poetry and dance marking the birth one year ago of the Four Freedoms Coalition.
The Berkshire alliance of civic, cultural environmental, political, religious and other organizations, plus local businesses, looks to build on momentum created by the coalition's inaugural march through downtown Pittsfield on Jan. 6, 2017.
Spurred by the threats and injustice to women, people of color and the LGBTQ community, the local movement is engaging many folks who have stayed on the sidelines of social issues.
"With the current political climate, more people are coming out in the open. While we see what's happening on the federal level, politics is still local," said Dennis Powell, president of the NAACP Berkshire chapter.
Powell among several leaders of coalition member organizations who spoke to The Eagle at an open house for the groups prior to the concert.
"We are trying to give all people all types of engagement; not everyone can march or attend meetings," said Drew Herzig.
The Pittsfield resident and Marlene Reil co-chair Indivisible Pittsfield, part of a national grass-roots resistance to President Donald Trump's agenda that began shortly after he took office last January.
The Indivisible movement seeks universal health care, better public education, voter rights protections and equal opportunity for all — issues in the forefront of 1960s America.
"I can't believe we're going through this again," Herzig noted.
Environmental issues, such as the Clean Water Act, grew out of the '60s and is in danger of being drained by the Trump administration, according to area environmentalists.
"We must have freedom for clean air and freedom for clean water," said Al Blake, co-coordinator of the Berkshire node of 350 Massachusetts.
A volunteer statewide climate action network, 350MA for short is also concentrating on reducing dependency on fossil fuels.
"We're trying to get as many cities and towns to be 100 percent renewable energy users," Blake said.
Going completely green must happen sooner than later, urged 350MA Berkshire volunteer Henry Rose.
"I don't think we have decades to turn this around, or we're cooked," he said.
Rose added more federal and state government action is needed to push for alternative energy sources.
Berkshire state Sen. Adam Hinds praised the breadth of the coalition and its ability to keep people engaged a year later.
"The reality is I still have people knocking on my door to get involved," he told an Eagle reporter.
Hinds says an improved economy and creating jobs remain among his top priorities for 2018, which, if achieved, can have a positive effect on education, health and other pressing issues in the Berkshires and throughout the commonwealth.
Information from: The Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle, http://www.berkshireeagle.com