BOSTON – Dennis Powell, the four-term president of the NAACP Berkshire County branch and a Pittsfield School Committee member, will be recognized at this year’s annual "Black Excellence on the Hill" event, Sen. Adam Hinds’ office said in a Friday news release.
The event, to be held on Feb. 26, is hosted by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and honors Black leaders and trailblazers making change in their communities across the Commonwealth.
Organizers said the event, according to the release, commemorates “Black community leaders and trailblazers that are moving the needle forward in their respective communities. Our 2021 nominees are activists, teachers, musicians, chocolatiers, and more -- demonstrating that the excellence inherent to Blackness emulates from how expansive it is."
Powell, 75, helped rebuild the county’s NAACP branch starting in 2012, and over the years expanded its membership and drove a sharp increase in donations to the Freedom Fund, which offers scholarships to African American students in Berkshire County during their two years of college, Hinds’ office said. He has been a central force at regional racial justice actions and actions over the past year, lending encouragement to youth activists during, the senator’s office said, a “year of global racial reckoning.”
"Dennis is the conscience of the community,” Hinds, who nominated Powell for the recognition, said in the statement. “He has done so much this past year to organize and stand up to racial injustice, and expanded the NAACP branch’s membership and scholarship funds in the process. He deserves to be recognized for all that he has done.”
Powell, an Army veteran who served oversees in Germany, also sits on the Pittsfield Licensing Board and is vice chairperson of the Clinton Church Restoration Board. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and went on to become a teaching fellow there and later a faculty member and department chair. Following his tenure, at the institute Powell returned to his hometown Pittsfield to open a restaurant, and today lends his culinary skills to helping his son’s restaurant, Mad Jacks.