Harvest of Hope Festival: Celebrating Pittsfield's multicultural community


PITTSFIELD — Food, music, art, and dancing are all surefire ways of bringing people together, and all will be offered in downtown Pittsfield this Saturday during the inaugural Harvest of Hope festival.

Not to be confused with the city's Harvest Festival scheduled for Oct. 15, which will be held in place of the October Third Thursday, this Saturday's Harvest of Hope is a celebration of diversity and community spirit created by the grassroots Manos Unidas/Hands Helping Hands Multicultural Educational Cooperative and developed by multiple community partners.

The day-to-night event will offer three components between noon and 11 p.m.: live music and dance performances, workshops and demonstrations from noon to 5 p.m. on The Common on First Street; a Harvest Feast to be held from 5:15 to 7 p.m., at the First United Methodist Church, 55 Fenn St.; and a World Groove Dance-In from 7:30 to 11 p.m., featuring the Berkshire Bateria and local instructors teaching global dance styles, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 175 Wendell Ave.

The daytime activities are free and open to the public. The Harvest Feast has a suggested donation of $5-$10, but no one will be turned away due to ability to pay. The dance party is $10 per individual or $15 per couple.

"We've been working for quite a few months. We're trying to model the world we want to live in with this event, by bringing different segments of the community together," said Anaelisa Jacobsen, executive director and founder of Manos Unidas/Helping Hands.

The co-op was founded on the principles of the United Nations-affiliated Earth Charter Initiative "for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century." The festival activities will exemplify the charter principles.

Any donations made during the festival or its online Generosity.com campaign will first go toward offsetting costs and paying teaching artists a "real living wage," then the rest will go toward supporting Manos Unidas ongoing education and outreach programs.

"It'll be nice, and we hope to gain some crossover participants since our program starts during the last hour of the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market. It's free, family-friendly event where people can come together to have fun and learn," said Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity Community Outreach Director Nicole Eigbrett, who's helping to coordinate the event.

The Harvest of Hope — also being promoted in Spanish as the Cosecha de Esperanza — will showcase storytelling, collective art creation, theater arts, spoken and musical performances, talks on civics, social, economic and environmental topics and conclude with a "planetary puppet procession."

The latter is the culmination of a children's art and movement project led by artist Wind Rose Morris in the Manos Unidas Freedom School for Grassroots Change youth program, with support from students in the Williams College Root diversity and social justice initiative. The children have created paper lanterns and volunteers created a canvas mural that will be carried in a procession to the Methodist Church and Harvest Feast.

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The dinner itself will also be representative of the Berkshires' multicultural residents, featuring fare with flavors of Morocco, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and more, along with some classic New England cuisine.

"We've done deep bilingual outreach. With all the conversation going on in Pittsfield about differences, we see Harvest of Hope truly as a display of strength and unity," Eigbrett said.

A festival volunteer who introduced himself as Bob I., said that as a longtime Pittsfield resident he has witnessed the changes among the people who make up the city's population.

"I just think people need to realize the world is shrinking. I mean Pittsfield had, for a long time, been a small New England town with primarily European influence, but Pittsfield's evolved into a melting pot. We have to be aware of it, and we need to find ways to survive and live together," he said.

What: Harvest of Hope/Cosecha de Esperanza, a multicultural celebration in downtown Pittsfield featuring performances, participatory art-making, civic workshops, a community Harvest Feast and World Groove Dance-In.

Schedule: Performances, talks and art events will take place from noon to 5 p.m. at The Common on First Street. A Planetary Puppet Procession of luminaries will proceed to the First United Methodist Church of Pittsfied, 55 Fenn St., where a Harvest Feast will take place from 5:15 to 7 p.m. A World Groove Dance-In with the Berkshire Bateria and world dance instructors will follow from 7:30 to 11 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 175 Wendell Ave.

Cost: Daytime festival is free. Harvest Feast is free, with a suggested donation of $5-$10 per person. Dance-In is $10 per individual or $15 per couple.

Sponsors and participating presenters: Manos Unidas/Hands Helping Hands Multicultural Educational Cooperative, Fronteras Comunes Bilingual Zine, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Berkshares, Schumacher Society, Arise for Social Justice, OutNow, Living the Change, First United Methodist Church of Pittsfield, Christian Center, Temple Anshe Amunim, Women of Spirit; Berkshire Yoga, Dance, and Fitness; Talus Wood Farm and WindRose Morris; Kia Jackson, movement storytelling artist; Sonrisa O'Toole, dance instructor; Wendy Rabinowitz, artist; Berkshire Bateria, Revelation Hope and Refuge Ministries, Berkshire Community College, Root initiative at Williams College, Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Children & Families, Climate Action Now, 350 Mass for a Better Future Project.

To donate: generosity.com/community-fundraising/harvest-of-hope-festival

Info: Find the event at facebook.com/manosunidascooperative, call Anaelisa Jacobsen at 413-841-0298. or email manosunidasorg@gmail.com


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