Collective Power lands $1M for reproductive rights work

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-01-2024 11:50 AM

AMHERST — Collective Power for Reproductive Justice, based on the Hampshire College campus, recently received a $1 million grant from Yield Giving, a foundation created by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The organization, founded in 1981 as the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program, was one of 18 Massachusetts organizations, and 361 organizations across the country, sharing $640 million provided by the foundation.

Collective Power is described by the college as a place “to mobilize young people to participate in the reproductive rights movement and has fostered generations of activists; the Five Colleges Reproductive Health Rights and Justice Program emerged from this work.”

“Today, we are a growing, national reproductive justice organization, and our annual conference, summer internship program and leadership building projects attract increasing numbers of participants from across the country,” Collective Power’s website states. “Collective Power continues to mobilize a broad diversity of young people, connecting with new allies and supporting and inspiring new generations of leadership.”

Child abuse awareness

Amherst will raise a flag and offer a proclamation as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month begins on Monday.

At 4:30 p.m. at Town Hall, a proclamation from the Town Council, on behalf of community sponsor Marlene Musante, a member of the Board of the Children’s Advocacy Center, will be read. That proclamation states, in part, that “child abuse prevention is a community responsibility and finding solutions to child abuse depends on involvement of the entire community” and that “effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of partnerships between agencies, schools, religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community.”

Remarkable women

Barbara Love, Jacqueline Wallace and Mary Custard will discuss community leadership Wednesday at 7 p.m. in an Amherst League of Women Voters Racial Justice Committee presentation. Go to lwvamherst.org to register to participate in the event that is part of the Judy Harris Brooks Conversation Series.

Love runs the AKAR Institute for Executive Coaching in Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Formerly a public school teacher who chaired the Amherst School Committee, she was the founder of the Social Justice Education program at the University of Massachusetts.

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Wallace has over 40 years experience as a clinical social worker and therapist and directs the Amherst Area Gospel Choir.

Custard is a leader in social justice at the Amherst public schools and the dean of students for 10th and 12th grades at the high school. She also supports the student organization People of Color United.

Local historic district

While the Finance Committee is supporting most of $2.8 million in Community Preservation Act project proposals, including for recreation, community housing and historical preservation, it is holding off on endorsing a $20,000 request to study the creation of an East Amherst local historic district, over concerns with language used in the application.

At a recent meeting, At Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke said she understands the project’s value to the town, but that the application’s write-up is negative toward recent changes in town, and suggests the goal of such a district may be to inhibit all development.

“My bigger concern, though, in granting funds for a project is the application comments that the project would be supporting,” Hanneke said, adding that she is concerned about wording that she doesn’t endorse, citing specifically the phrase that Amherst is facing “the construction of pre-fab, shoddily built student hotels, which detract from and devalue the town and benefit only a handful of landlords who profit by them.”

“I do really want to disavow the application. Wording is not appropriate for us to endorse,” Hanneke said.

The application was submitted by Steve Bloom, vice chairman of the Local Historic District Commission, which is looking to study an area that includes Main Street and part of South East Street where the new elementary school is being constructed.

Finance Committee member Bernie Kubiak said he shares Hanneke’s concern. “Forming an historic district should be an act of instruction and research and something that’s positive, so those comments are toxic, in my humble opinion,” Kubiak said.

At Large Councilor Andy Steinberg said the Finance Committee should ask for a modification and clarification of the application, and pause the spending approval until the application meets standards defined by the committee.

The language will be sent back to the Community Preservation Act Committee to see if they could amend the language, District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen.

Margarita Madness returns

Margarita Madness, a signature event for the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, is set for April 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Interskate 91 at Hampshire Mall in Hadley.

The event will feature 21 margarita tastings, five tables of food tastings and a pre-reception room beginning at 5 p.m.. There will also be a raffle, live music, a photo booth and desserts, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Cooley Dickinson Hospital Emergency Department.

“It’s an opportunity to highlight our local businesses and create community at the same time,” Youssef Fadel, chairman of the Margarita Madness Committee, said in a statement.

Tickets are $35 per person when purchased in advance at amherstarea.com.

Meetings

MONDAY: Town Council, 6:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: Elementary School Building Design Subcommittee, 11 a.m., Fort River School; Land Management Subcommittee, noon; Community Resources Committee, 6:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY: Public Art Commission, 6 p.m.