First Harvest of Hope Festival draws multicultural community together with food, arts and organizing

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PITTSFIELD >> An Eagle reporter scanned the Pittsfield Common on Saturday afternoon, looking for a story at the first Harvest of Hope Festival.

But a tug on his jacket distracted him. The reporter looked down.

"I'm trying to draw a 'two,' " said a boy of about five.

The reporter nodded. The boy was one of about eight children, black, white and Hispanic, drawing and making collages at a table at the festival.

"Is that a 'two?' " the young boy asked, pointing to his finished creation.

Not really, the reporter thought. It was kind of like a lopsided question mark. The reporter needed a story, but felt compelled to interrupt in his work; the kid was adorable.

"You're close," the reporter advised. "You just need to bend the tail back a little."

He took the marker from his new friend and made a fairly decent-looking '2.'

The youngster caught on immediately, copying the reporter's '2' pretty well.

"Yeah, you got it," said the reporter, and the two bumped fists. The boy beamed and drew three more.

The Harvest of Hope is a multi-cultural, community-building, awareness-raising event that organizers hope will be a catalyst for change in Pittsfield and beyond. There are a host of sponsors, but Manos Unidas/Hands Helping Hands Multicultural Educational Cooperative is the driving force behind it.

Saturday's event was an all-day affair, according to Anaelisa Jacobson, one of the co-founders of the event. From noon to 5 p.m., there were performance artists, dancers, clinics, booths, storytelling and social, economic and environmental information tables.

"It's a festival of hope," said Jacobson. "We're trying to create a visual representation of what hope can be like in our community, especially at a time when the city has so many challenges: the opioid crisis, shootings, gang activity. We have to meet these challenges as a community."

"This brings people together," said Robert O'Brien, a co-director of the festival. "Especially the unheard members of our community."

"It's here so people can come together," said Warren Davis of Pittsfield. "So people can learn about each other."

"I think it's a good thing for Pittsfield," said Leroy Befford of Pittsfield. "It's always good for people to interact. Maybe it will make for better relations. Maybe people will get to know each other better."

There were a number of booths. Tariq Pinkston was manning the Family Support Network booth. The Family Support Network is a national nonprofit organization that helps families with children with special needs.

At his booth, Pinkston was doing two things: Giving away free books to kids and letting them make giant bubbles with one of those large bubble-making hoops and some detergent.

"I've never met a kid who doesn't like bubbles," said Pinkston. And, he pointed out, the bubble-maker brought them to the booth, where they got a free book.

"We're trying to encourage reading," he said.

It wasn't all fun and games. In a small tent on the grounds, the Schumacher Center and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center were hosting a brainstorming session on creating small, locally-owned and operated businesses.

"Basically, we're brainstorming ideas about products we can make in the Berkshires," said Alice Maggio, the Local Currency Director for the Schumacher Center in Great Barrington. Saturday's event was one of several the two organizations host throughout the county.

The more fun stuff came later on in the day, as the Harvest of Hope hosted a Harvest Feast, featuring a cornucopia of international dishes from 5 to 7. After that, from 7:30 to 11, there was a World Groove Dance Festival featuring the percussive rhythms of the Berkshire Bataria, as well as instruction on global dance styles. This event was at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Wendell Avenue.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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