Dear Greylock Together,
The horrifying murders of eight people in Atlanta massage parlors, six of them Asian women, are an example of so many toxic things in our society: anti-Asian racism, misogynist violence, violence against sex workers, toxic masculinity, income inequality, and a hyperabundance of guns. They’re about all of thoseand more, and we are so deeply saddened by these crimes. Many people in the AAPI community feel particularly targeted these days. For us, locally, we think Pittsfield City Councilor Helen Moon spoke powerfully in this Facebook video about these horrific events and her own experiences as an Asian woman. She says:My heart is heavy this morning following last night’s racially motivated mass shooting. Over the past year, we have seen a rise in hate crimes targeting AAPI. Over the course of a year, there have been 3800 racially motivated incidences reported. These acts are the result of unsubstantiated blaming of AAPI for Coronavirus pandemic. I am calling on my fellow local electeds and state leaders to join me in condemning anti-Asian racism and supporting our local AAPI during these times.We all need to work on this together. We all need to begin changing this.
It might be helpful to attend this town hall on anti-Asian racism in Massachusetts next week on Thursday, the 25th, at 6:00 pm. Register for the Zoom here.
SAVE THE DATE: NEXT GREYLOCK TOGETHER MEETING: Sunday, March 28, 3-4:30 on ZOOM!
We will have updates on local work and actions and and national legislative priorities, and hear from Williamstown Select Board Candidate Jeff Johnson with time for questions and answers. Any other candidates or officials who would like to join us will be welcome, as always!
Work and Family Mobility. Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts should get driver’s licenses. People who drive should be required to be licensed to operate their car. It makes us safer. Ready identification makes their lives easier, as well, as well as the lives of law enforcement. Please take a moment to ask Rep. Barrett to co-sponsor Rep. Farley-Bouvier’s Work and Family Mobility Act; email him here. More info on the bill is here.
Williamstown Letter. Thank you to everyone who asked to sign on to the GT letter to the Williamstown Select Board (plus another to the DIRE committee). We had more than 80 signatories, and a dozen more who asked to sign after we’d already sent it! We also had a great deal of helpful writing advice, for which we are grateful and which we will try to incorporate in the future. If you didn’t get a chance to sign, write them directly and stay involved! Elections are in a month.
Filibuster. We should eliminate the filibuster. This is probably preaching to the choir, but it’s an unintentional artifact of a weird rule change that’s mostly been used for white supremacy. It’s also strange on its face: the Senate already has staggered election cycles and six-year terms so that it won’t be responsive to short-sightedness or momentary political waves, so why add a supermajority requirement to pass legislation on top of that?
AstraZeneca. I had a whole impassioned cri de coeur written out about how the United States government had purchased millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but the FDA hadn’t yet approved them, so they were going to expire and be wasted in the next few weeks, per Zeynep Tufecki. But then the Biden administration just up and changed policy to start shipping them out! Kudos to them… thousands of lives will be saved!
Paid Family & Medical Leave. From Kristen Elechko to CD-1: The Coalition for Social Justice is collecting short stories and pictures or videos to make the case for significant investment in a national paid family and medical leave policy, in anticipation of a hearing coming up in DC this session. We aim to make the case for comprehensive coverage through lifting the voices of those who have been impacted by a lack of paid leave. Comprehensive care means advocating for specific improvements to the “Family Act” and passing it into law.
The Coalition plans to use the stories on social media and for meetings with Congressional Representatives, including US Representative Neal; the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Do you or a family member have a personal experience with family and medical leave that shows the need for a comprehensive national leave policy? Let us know by emailing email@example.com.
GT Book Group. We’ll be participating in Berkshire County’s second, annual “One Book, One Community” county-wide read. This year’s book selection is Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We’re Taking Back Our Power by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. More details to follow. This discussion will take place in early April, and The Williams Bookstore has copies.)
Also, don’t forget the book for our March 25th meeting is Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen.
CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:
Resist and persist!
Dear Greylock Together,
We are outraged at the news that the Williamstown Police Department broke the law and our community’s trust by engaging in retaliatory investigation of those citizens who have raised concerns about racism, sexual assault, and anti-Semitism. Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law, and that means that the police can’t selectively target their critics. It is a positive step that Interim Williamstown Chief of Police Mike Ziemba has worked with many of the victims to begin to make this right, and we hope that the investigation will be concluded quickly and more information released immediately. But this was a gross abuse of power and cannot be tolerated.
We would like to send a letter to the Williamstown Select Board. The text is below. Please put your name in this form if you would like to be included as a signatory with us. You can also just reply to this email with your name and the town where you live, if the link doesn’t work.
Dear Williamstown Selectboard,
We write to you as members of the leadership team of Greylock Together. Greylock Together is one of thousands of Indivisible groups fighting for progressive values and a stronger democracy. We are grassroots, loosely structured, and action-oriented. Our advocacy efforts have included local, state and national concerns. Our core membership base resides in north Berkshire but we have members from across Berkshire County and beyond on our email list which includes over 900 individuals.
We are writing to express our outrage at the news that the members of the Williamstown Police Department broke the law and our community’s trust by engaging in retaliatory investigation of those citizens who have raised concerns about racism, sexual assault, and anti-Semitism in the police department and town government. These searches were a violation of Massachusetts General Law, Ch. 6, Section 167A. Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law, and that means that the police can’t selectively target their critics.
It is a positive step that Interim Williamstown Chief of Police Mike Ziemba has worked with many of the victims to begin to make this right, and we hope that the investigation will be concluded quickly and more information released immediately. But this was a gross abuse of power and cannot be tolerated. Our friends and neighbors have been targeted.
Greylock Together is committed to using our collective voices and advocacy to support you, members of the DIRE committee, and the Williamstown Racial Justice and Police Reform group and other parties. We must have a full independent investigation of misconduct; the current independent investigator should be tasked officially with doing what they can to examine this issue, as well as existing concerns. Further, we are committed to community dialogue and advocacy and to a new chapter in public safety in Williamstown that ensures every resident of the community is equally and equitably protected.
Alexander, Wendy, and Jess
Dear Greylock Together,
“For nine months, Williamstown community members have spoken out, attended every single Select Board meeting to ask questions and force transparency, emailed, called, organized themselves and given (countless) hours of their personal (and collective) time to hold accountable those who contributed to the culture of racism, antisemitism, sexism, sexual assault and retaliation at the Williamstown police department. This is a hopeful moment. This is accountability. My town has much to account for and rebuild. I look forward to a future we can create together under new leadership and with a new relationship between the community and those who serve us.” – Peggy Kern, fellow member of WRJPR
*See WRJPR’s full statement below in response to the resignation of
Williamstown’s Town Manager
I have been the beneficiary of serving with WRJPR team members since May 25, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the upheaval of 2020. No matter how many countless, collective hours and meetings and sleepless nights we have shared, they cannot begin to undo the harm that has been done in this community. May our commitment to those closest to the harm and to each other be a model for what a more creative and imaginative vision for community and public safety might mean for Williamstown. May we hold ourselves accountable, create and welcome new systems for communication and oversight, and applaud the growing number of actively engaged citizens who show up, again and again, because of how much they care.
To all of my amazing fellow Greylock Together friends and teammates, may I offer the most profound gift I’ve received these past 9 months as my activism at the national and state level has turned so necessarily and fiercely to the work right here in my own backyard, the one where I grew up and returned to with my own family 23 years ago. What is happening here in Williamstown is a snapshot of what is happening in small towns, cities and suburban neighborhoods across this fractured country. (Did George Floyd’s murder at Cup Foods—four blocks from my daughter’s apartment in Minneapolis—shake the ground more viscerally beneath this mother’s feet? No doubt. Proximity is often an instant catapult to action.) What better way to impact the national conversation and necessary change in Washington—where white supremacist insurrectionists attempted to destroy our democracy six weeks ago—than to acknowledge the work that must be done on behalf of our very own neighbors who have every right to feel safe and cared for in this place we all call home. The profound lesson: all politics begin locally, as messy and uncomfortable and difficult as the work involved clearly is. When we seek to hold each other to standards of truth and human dignity, we all win. We transform Together.
News Release: Williamstown Racial Justice & Police Reform, February 19, 2021
Today our thoughts are with the members of our community who have been so deeply hurt by what we understand to be a longstanding culture of racism, antisemitism, and sexual harassment and assault. We are proud to be part of a community that is taking responsibility to address these harms, and we commit to the work of structural change necessary to ensure that this town’s future includes safety, dignity, and collective responsibility for each other.
We center the lives of the victims in our community so that fewer lives will be victimized in the future. We call out harms as we learn about them, not to create discord, but rather to shine a light on actions that prevent the safety and wellbeing of all of our neighbors.
We hope that our new Town Manager will uphold Articles 36 & 37 in ways that center those who are and have been marginalized in our community. We know that Williamstown is not exceptional in its exposure to white supremacy and structural racism.
We firmly believe that the insistence of transparency and accountability from those in leadership positions is a positive development that shows respect for every resident and visitor, regardless of their life experience.
We encourage broad community participation in articulating the qualities and recruitment of the next Town Manager. We hope residents and leaders will closely examine the vestiges of our town policies and Charter; to imagine creative improvements together will open Williamstown and its many gifts to others for decades to come. In order to heal our community, may we be reminded of author and educator Michelle Alexander’s words from Thursday’s Claiming Williams Day at Williams College: From Racial Injustice to Restoration —
“There is no justice after the fact, but we can make the promise to minimize the chance that harm like this will never happen again.”
Want to stay connected to WRJPR?
Subscribe to WRJPR’s weekly newsletter and forward to a friend. Our website is also a great place for easy access to links to attend DIRE (Diversity, Inclusion & Racial Equity Committee) and Select Board meetings via zoom.
Dear Greylock Together,
Just a few quick notes — full newsletter next week.
Berkshire Mutual Aid. Berkshire Mutual Aid has been doing amazing work since the start of the pandemic, scrambling and bartering to get people the help they need. Julie Berger and the rest of the group were the tip of the spear recently when the governor announced that caretakers for the elderly would also be eligible for vaccines. It was immediately obvious that this would be exploited by the unscrupulous, and this article in the Eagle discusses the work BMA has done to fight that exploitation. Check it out.
Navigating Difficult Conversations. ROOTS Teen Center is holding a special workshop by ZOOM on February 17th, Navigating Difficult Conversations, led by Michael Obasohan, ROOTS board member and Associate Director of Readiness and Success at MCLA.
Do you find it hard to have conversations with friends and family on difficult topics such as race, religion, sexuality, and identity? Don’t know where to start? Attend this engaging session with a trained facilitator and gain the skills and confidence to navigate these types of conversations.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details and registration.
Raskin. If you appreciated the brilliant leadership and rhetoric of impeachment manager Rep. Raskin last week, then you can show your appreciation with a donation to the foundation he started to honor the memory of his son, the Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals.
Resist and persist!
Dear Greylock Together,
Maybe you’re following the big-ticket items on the news. I understand they’re chatting in the Senate about an out-of-work insurrectionist these days, for example. And you’ve probably seen the stimulus bill news and COVID-19 items, too — the 28% increase in vaccine supply, etc. But here are some items of good news that you might have missed. It’s okay to be happy about good stuff, folks. This list got really long, so here’s just some of the highlights.
- ICE will be directed to focus on national security and serious criminals, and will no longer be rabidly focused on deportations above all. It’ll be a dramatic shift.
- The refugee cap will be lifted hugely by the end of the year, going from 15,000 to 125,000. It should be far higher, but this will still be the highest number of refugees allowed to seek refuge on our shores since the early 1980s.
- The Massachusetts climate change bill was vetoed by Governor Baker last term. So they’re passing it this year again, unchanged. It’s a pretty good bill.
- USA is back in the WHO and the Paris Climate Agreement.
- The Keystone XL Pipeline permit has been canceled.
- The US will no longer be supporting the Saudi attacks on Yemen.
- Trans people can serve in the military once again.
- DACA is no longer under threat (for now… immigration reform is still needed).
- The Muslim ban is gone.
- Trump managed to build about 80 miles of new border wall, but did replace about 370 miles of existing fencing with the new design. It won’t be finished, though — President Biden has canceled all existing construction contracts.
Good stuff, folks!
BIC Success. The BIC fundraiser raised over $4,000. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and thanks to the companies that donated gift cards: Big Y, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper, Wal-Mart, Target, and the Berkshire Co-Op Market!
Williamstown and North Adams Vacancies. There are openings in government in both towns and they need progressives to fill them. In Williamstown, there are many openings (listed here), but most importantly there are two seats on the Select Board and one seat on the Planning Board that will be open. You’ll need some signatures (not electronic, but real!) on official papers, which you can get from the town clerk (contact here) and which are due by March 23rd. No word at this time about incumbents. The list of North Adams openings is longer and can be seen here — notice Planning Board, Zoning Board have openings!
House Rules Delay. New MA House Speaker Ron Mariano has opted not to immediately try to pass a rules bill, which leaves open the possibility of maybe getting a more open process. Act On Mass is on it, and we hope for more movement on this front. The rules vote is now going to be in six months… this is something we’ll be keeping an eye on!
State Chair Nonapology. The MA Democratic state chair Gus Bickford has apologized in a general way for his role in helping smear Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, formerly a candidate for MA-01, during last year’s election. He didn’t apologize to Alex Morse. There are no plans for significant change. The whole thing is an outrage.
Punchbowl Chat. Our friends at Force Multiplier MA are hosting a conversation with Anna Palmer, founder of Punchbowl News (a new publication focused on politics news that scooped up a bunch of big names in journalism last month). It’s free and it’ll be fun!
GT Book Group. The GT book group’s Feb 25th meeting (at 7) will be reading Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Their March 25th meeting will be reading Evil Geniuses: the Unmaking of America by Kurt Anderson.
GT Book Group
25 Feb @ 7:00 pm
Zoom (link to follow)
CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:
Dear Greylock Together,
Yesterday, we watched as President Biden replaced Trump and Majority Leader Schumer replaced McConnell. And it was great! We laughed, we cried, and we clapped. Good times!
But today, we’re making a few calls. After all, we’re not here just to change out personnel… we’re here to change the world.
You might remember the Congressional Review Act from the start of the Trump presidency, when it was used to reverse a few rules passed during the end of the Obama administration. The general idea is that Congress reserves for itself the right to study any rules coming out of the executive branch, so if a rule is issued too late in the session for proper study, then there’s a law that says that it’s treated as though it were issued on Day 15 of the next session and it can be repealed with a simple majority not subject to filibuster (more details from CRS here). Because a “legislative day” is a pretty creative unit of time, that functionally means that this new Congress can reverse any rule issued by the Trump administration since August 21st. That’s more than 1,455 rules — some of which were incredibly vile!
Take just a few minutes today to make three calls, and get our people to work on this right away! They need to know we’re watching.
Hi there. I’m a constituent from <TOWN> and I was calling to ask for you to take a look at starting immediately on putting together bills to will repeal some of the worst Trump regulations under the Congressional Review Act, especially <RULE>. It’s very important and time is limited! Thank you!
Possible rules to cite:
- The methane rule
- The restrictions on lenders to decline to loan to oil companies
- The restrictions on EPA ability to regulate greenhouse gases
- The restrictions on pension managers from considering the environment
Rep. Neal: (202) 225-5601
Sen Warren: (202) 224-4543
Sen Markey: (202) 224-2742
Barrett. Some GT folks met virtually with Rep. Barrett the other day and talked about possible changes in the MA House under new Speaker Mariano. Barrett was optimistic about a more open process, and happy to support recent bills like the climate bill (reintroduced today, to be passed over an expected second veto from Baker). He was unwilling to sign the Act On Mass pledge, but did say he’d commit to always tell us how he voted.
One thing I particularly loved was an anecdote Rep. Barrett told us from that time, when he went to the state HHS to ask about the testing. He told the staffer in charge that she needed to change the policy immediately, because “there’s this group up here with me, Greylock Together, and they’re starting to make calls. And they’re very annoying when they want something done.”
Rep. Barrett meant it in a good way, but he was right. So let’s keep at it. Make those calls!
Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.
No events scheduled.
CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION: