The Berkshire Human Rights Speaker Series strives to foster global unity and interconnectivity as human beings through awareness and understanding. It was founded by the Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire, and is a shared event for all those concerned with issues of human rights. The talks are free and open to the public and they are usually followed by a small reception to meet the speaker. There are no talks planned for the 2017-2018 year, but events will be posted as they arise.

Archive: 2016-2017 Season


Sunday, November 13th at 3 p.m. – Prof. Janice Johnson Dias – Seeing and Treating Black Women and Girls as Humans
Johnson Dias teaches Sociology at the City University of NY and is the Co-founder of GrassROOTS Community Foundation — finding solutions to the health challenges facing women and girls living in poverty. Dr. Dias’s talk will explore how notions of black mystical appeal stymie black humanity and harms black women and girls. Black girls are often viewed as capable of defying gravity and performing unfathomable feats, think Simone Biles and Serena Williams. Black people and whites alike often elevate black women and girls to the level of superhuman which paradoxically strips us of our humanity. Accepting black humanity means seeing us as you see yourself: capable of good, bad and all the things in between.
First Congregational Church, UCC, in Stockbridge, 4 Main St, Stockbridge, MA 01262

Sunday, December 11th at 2 p.m. – Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross – The Big Talk–Part 2: The Experiences Connected to Community Blindness
Why does community pain (brutality, murders, disasters) force relevant race and humanity discussions, but not yield on-going relevant benefits? I want this part 2 talk to instill a discomfort within all of us.None of us should be allowed to become complacent and satisfied with the painfully slow, forward movement regarding race relations. Why? Because racism and oppression are on-going. There will always be crises if talks and strategies are not influx. Building on her BIG TALK presentation last season, Rev. Sholes-Ross will reflect on her recent visit to Baton Rouge, during the Alton Jones killing by police, and consider thoughts on what changes should be made so that history will not repeat itself. We live in a dangerous time. With no less than the sanctity of human relations teetering perilously in the balance. OUR balance. It’s up to us what we do next!
Hevreh of So Berkshire, 270 State Rd, Gt Barrington, MA 01230

Sunday, January 15th at 1 p.m. – Tracie Keesee – Race and Policing: Are Officers of Color the Solution?
Tracie Keesee is currently the Deputy Commissioner of training for the NYPD. The racial disparity in policing is nationwide and desperately needs fixing. Historically, there’s been a disconnect with African-Americans and the Police that isn’t going to disappear overnight. According to the Pew Research Center, when done correctly, aggressive diversity hiring can be a powerful tool in restoring community confidence in police departments. As DC Keesee says, communities of color suggest that police departments that reflect the demographics of their communities will help build trusting relationships. Yet, officers of color express the conflict between the communities they serve and simultaneously represent has created a unique burden that they alone must carry. Are officers of color the solution to the issues of race and policing?
Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire (UUMSB), 1089 Main Street, Housatonic, MA 01230

Sunday, February 12th at 1 p.m. (TIME CHANGE), Delores Jones Brown – The Future of Racial Justice and Policing: Where Do We Go From Here?
Dr. Jones-Brown is a Prof. in the Dept. of Law and Criminal Justice at the City University of NY, and founding director of the John Jay College Center on Race, Crime and Justice. Despite the high minded constitutional principles of the nation’s founders, policing in America has always involved the enforcement of racial codes. From slave patrols to modern urban policing, the underground code for American policing has been controlling and containing non-white populations. Class divides and economic downturns, for all but the very wealthy, have exacerbated American’s fear of everything, including crime and loss of social position. This fear has revitalized the need for the Black Lives Matter movement. The divisiveness over competing movements leaves us wondering, where will America and it’s police forces stand ? This talk will explore alternatives for policing the future of policing in America and it’s ability to foster, rather than impede, racial justice.
Kimball Farms, 235 Walker St, Lenox, MA 01240

Sunday, March 5th at 2 p.m. – A screening of the award winning film, The New Black
From the acclaimed director, producer and writer Yoruba Richen, a compelling documentary that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with the issue of gay rights in light of the gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage, while examining the homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar, the black church. The New Black takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets as it intimately tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland, as support splits within the black community. There will be a $5 charge for this event to offset the screening fee. Students are free. See the trailer.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St, Great Barrington, Massachusetts 01230

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Made possible in part by support from the MASS Cultural Council, with grants from the Pittsfield, W. Stockbridge, Monterey, Alford/Egremont, Sheffield, Lee, Lenox & Great Barrington Cultural Councils