Bridging Divides, Healing Communities Speaker Series

A four-part speaker series exploring some of the forces and trends creating disparities and division, and how to take action locally to build common ground and solve problems together

Hosted by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, The Berkshire Eagle and Berkshire Bank

Watch recordings of all sessions below



Part 1: The Inclusive Future

Originally presented on April 13

Understanding the durability and impact of racial and economic divides is critical for restoring and strengthening connections. This session brings together two leading political voices and a civil rights advocate to discuss the systems and structures that for generations have oppressed people of color, and opportunities for reconciliation and repair through government and community-level action.

Featured Speakers                                                                    Moderator

Deval Patrick
Former Governor of Massachusetts,
Civil Rights Attorney

Antonio Delgado
U.S. Representative

Dr. Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
VP for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Williams College

Governor Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick is a lawyer, business executive, entrepreneur and author who served as the 71st governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015. Born on the South Side of Chicago, he lived with his grandparents, his mother, and his sister in their grandparents’ two bedroom tenement, much of that time on welfare. Through the love and support of family, great teachers, and others in the neighborhood and in church, he became the first in his family to attend college and law school. 

After earning his law degree, Patrick served as a law clerk to a federal appellate judge before joining the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund as a staff attorney. In 1986, he joined the Boston law firm of Hill & Barlow and was named partner in 1990, at the age of 34. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Patrick Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the nation’s top civil rights post. At the Justice Department, Patrick worked on a wide range of issues, including prosecution of hate crimes, and the enforcement of employment discrimination, fair lending and disabilities rights laws. After the justice department, Patrick returned to private law practice in Boston before becoming a senior executive at two Fortune 50 companies.  

In 2006, Patrick became Massachusetts’ first black governor, helping the state to rank first in the nation in energy efficiency, health care coverage, and student achievement by the end of his second term. After he left office, Patrick joined Bain Capital to launch Bain Capital Double Impact, which has invests in mission-driven companies for both financial return and social or environmental good. He serves currently as a senior advisor to the firm, as well as on several public and private company boards.

Patrick and Diane, his wife of 36 years, have called the Berkshires home for nearly 20 years.  


U.S. Congressman Antonio Delgado

Antonio Delgado is an attorney and politician who serves as the U.S. Representative for New York's 19th congressional district. The district includes most of the southern and eastern suburbs of the Capital District as well as the majority of the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions. He is the first person of either African-American or Hispanic descent to be elected to Congress from Upstate New York.

Rep. Delgado is from Schenectady and lives in Rhinebeck with his wife, Lacey, and their twin sons, Maxwell and Coltrane. Rep. Delgado's parents worked for General Electric in Schenectady, demonstrating the values of hard work and commitment to community. It is that hard-working spirit that Rep. Delgado has continued throughout his life: he earned a Rhodes Scholarship while he attended Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, and went on to attend Harvard Law School. Rep. Delgado's professional experiences include a career in the music industry focused on empowering young people through Hip Hop culture, as well as working as an attorney in the complex commercial space, where he also dedicated significant time to pro bono work in connection with criminal justice reform. 

During the 116th Congress, Rep. Delgado received the Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Enterprise Award and the Jefferson-Hamilton Award for his bipartisan legislative work. Rep. Delgado is the Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit. The Congressman also serves on the House Small Business and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.


Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes is the vice president for institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion at Williams College, a role she has held since 2015. Prior to her work at the college, Haynes directed the Education Practice at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) where she advocated for equal access to educational opportunities for students of all ages. With more than two decades as an administrator, educator, civil rights advocate, and lawyer, her past experience includes serving as a judicial law clerk to the late Honorable Dickinson R. Debevoise of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, an associate at a global law firm, a policy advisor to former Wisconsin governor, and an elementary school teacher. 

Haynes has contributed to and helped shape the national dialogue around promising practices to curb racial injustice and discrimination, and led coalitions working to advance the rights of individuals with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and immigrants.  She has successfully argued before state and federal trial and appellate courts and is co-author of "Eliminating Excessive and Disparate School Discipline: A Review of Research and Policy Reform in Inequality in School Discipline" (2016) and "Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity" (2014); and, author of "Ensuring Equality in School Discipline Practices and Policies and Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline" in "A Call for Change: Providing Solutions for Black Male Achievement" (2012). 

Haynes holds a B.A. from Williams College and a J.D., M.S., and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



Part 2: Moving From 'I' to 'We'

Originally presented on April 20

Economic, social and political trends can influence the extent to which Americans prioritize putting themselves first or moving ahead together. The co-authors of “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again” share analysis and stories from the Gilded Age to today to inspire thinking about the future. Local community college students will question the panelists on what is needed to change course. 

Featured Speakers                                                                    Moderator

Dr. Robert D. Putnam
Malkin Professor of Public Policy
Harvard University

Shaylyn Romney Garrett
Writer and Founding Contributor
Weave: The Social Fabric Project

Peter Taylor
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

Robert B. Putnam

Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association, in 2006 he received the Skytte Prize, the world's highest accolade for a political scientist.  In 2012 Barack Obama awarded Bob the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities.  He has written 15 books, translated into 20 languages, including "Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Italy" and "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," both among the most cited (and bestselling) social science works in nearly a century.  He has consulted for Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama, as well as presidents and prime ministers from the UK, Ireland, and Finland to South Korea and Singapore. His most recent book, "The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again" (2020), is a widely praised study of broad 20th century American economic, social, political, and cultural trends.  


Shaylyn Romney Garrett 

Shaylyn Romney Garrett is a writer and award-winning social entrepreneur. She is a founding contributor to “Weave: The Social Fabric Project,” an Aspen Institute initiative. She also contributed to Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell’s American Grace. Shaylyn holds a degree in government from Harvard University, and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer. Learn more at


Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor became the fourth president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in January 2016. Since his arrival, Peter has led the board and staff through a regional community assessment and a strategic planning process resulting in new foundation priorities aimed at increasing educational attainment, community engagement and economic opportunity. During his tenure, the foundation has worked collaboratively with BTCF donors, committees, other funders and community groups to launch multi-year initiatives focused on supporting entrepreneurship, strengthening community engagement through the arts, increasing educational attainment and reducing poverty and substance use. Previously, Peter served as vice president, program development and grantmaking services, at the Maine Community Foundation, a statewide community foundation he joined in 2002. Prior to this role, Peter was associate dean of students at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. His past board service includes chairing Maine Philanthropy Center and Maine Commission for Community Service. 



Part 3: How Modern Media Can Create and Bridge Divides

Originally presented on May 4

In an era many describe as post-truth, cable news and social media are amplifying narratives of discord while local news organizations that provide timely, unbiased information to their communities are disappearing. Two nationally known journalists discuss the impact of these shifts on our discourse and institutions, and how to repair the damage.

Featured Speakers                                                                    Moderator

Alec MacGillis
Politics and Government Reporter

Charles M. Sennott
Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Editor
GroundTruth Project & Report for America

Fredric D. Rutberg
President and Publisher
The Berkshire Eagle

Alec MacGillis
Alec MacGillis covers politics and government for ProPublica. MacGillis previously reported for The New Republic, The Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun. He won the 2016 Robin Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, the 2017 Polk Award for National Reporting, and the 2017 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, New York, Harper's, and New York Times Magazine, among other publications.

Alec MacGillis was raised in the Berkshires and graduated from Pittsfield High School.  He is now a resident of Baltimore, and is the author of The Cynic, a 2014 biography of Sen. Mitch McConnell. His recent book, Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, investigates Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States. It has been named a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and called a “grounded and expansive examination of the American economic divide” by the Los Angeles Times.


Charles M. Sennott
Charles Sennott is the founder, chief executive officer and editor of The GroundTruth Project. He is an award-winning correspondent, best-selling author and editor with 30 years of experience in international, national and local journalism.  He reported from the front lines of wars and insurgencies in at least 20 countries, including the post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2011 Arab Spring. 

Sennott’s deep experience in reporting led him to dedicate himself to supporting and training the next generation of journalists to tell the most important stories of our time. Sennott is also the co-founder of GlobalPost, an acclaimed international news website.  A leading social entrepreneur in new media, Sennott started GroundTruth in 2014 and in 2017 launched the nonprofit organization's new, local reporting initiative, Report for America.

He is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. In 2016, Sennott was accepted into the DRK portfolio of leading social entrepreneurs who can make a difference.



Part 4: Resident-Led Solutions

Originally presented on May 11
By addressing a problem through dialogue and considering an issue through a range of perspectives, local residents can strengthen relationships, build community and promote trust and belonging. Promising engagement efforts underway around our region are the focus of a session on Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s newest grant program.

Featuring a panel of grantees with projects exploring trust between police and residents, the role of the arts in advancing racial justice, and changing beliefs and belonging in a village of Connecticut’s second-smallest town:

  • Civic and business leaders are engaging with Hudson, N.Y., residents on community relations, including incidents of misconduct or brutality and police response to situations involving mental illness and substance use, through the mayor’s Police Reconciliation and Advisory Commission (in partnership with Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood). Panelist: Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson
  • “Small Town, Big Talk,” is a documentary photography installation by Rebecca Bloomfield at the David M. Hunt Library that shares stories and portraits of dozens of Falls Village, Conn., residents with diverse experience and identities. Panelist: Library Assistant Director Meg Sher
  • The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and Clinton Church Restoration in Great Barrington, Mass., joined forces for a two-night virtual program using LeLand Gantt’s one-man show “Rhapsody in Black” to explore how performing arts can advance discussions of racial justice. Panelist: Clinton Church Restoration Board Member Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed

Featured Speakers                                                                                  Moderator

Kamal Johnson
City of Hudson

Megan Sher
Assistant Director
David M. Hunt Library

Frances Jones-Sneed
Board Member
Clinton Church Restoration

Suzette Brooks Masters
Expert on Social Cohesion &
Board Member, Berkshire Taconic



This speaker series expands on a new Berkshire Taconic grant program that awarded nearly $50,000 to 21 local groups earlier this year to bring people together for the purposes of exploring shared interests, addressing a problem through dialogue and action, or considering an issue through a range of perspectives. A second round of grants is planned for the spring. Bridging Divides, Healing Communities grants are made possible with generous support from Berkshire Bank and the Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation.  


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