U.S. Sen. Edward Markey was the keynote speaker at Sunday's Four Freedoms Coalition rally. He attended a fundraiser for state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier's campaign prior to the march.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds of people marched Sunday afternoon under a brilliant sky from City Hall to the Colonial Theatre, chanting "No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here!"
The Four Freedoms March was held to acknowledge the four freedoms that were outlined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a State of the Union address nearly 80 years ago.
He described them as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. The Four Freedoms have special significance in the Berkshires because of painter Norman Rockwell's imagery; his original paintings are on display the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.
Local legislators turned out in force to support the cause and hear a diverse group of speakers and performers at the Colonial. State Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, John Barrett III, and Paul Mark sat with state Sen. Adam Hinds and Mayors Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Thomas Bernard of North Adams. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, a candidate for Congress, was in attendance. And the event brought U.S. Sen. Edward Markey to Pittsfield to deliver the keynote address in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
The event was hosted by Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of Berkshire Theater Group, which operates the Colonial. It was organized by the Four Freedoms Coalition, which has held a number of different rallies and workshops since the first march in 2017.
Tyer took the stage first to welcome everyone and offered her take on the four freedoms.
"We electeds, from federal to state to local, must always be guided in our decisions by these four freedoms as our foundation. I promise to all of you ... that I will be thinking about these four freedoms and how my work can be meaningful to the people who need us the most," she said. "I know I have some things to learn today and I come with an open heart and an open mind."
The first speaker was Imam Bilal Ansari on freedom of religion. Ansari is the assistant vice president of campus engagement at Williams College and has worked to combat injustice in federal and state prisons. His message was one of tolerance.
"Whether you are a Jew or a gentile, Protestant or Catholic, Hindu or Buddhist, you are welcome and you should be welcome. For Muslims who are Sunni or Shi'ite who may feel rejected I stand here as an African American to tell you to be patient. This nation is built on struggle and civil strife. It has its ups and its downs like the hills but the people shall rise again," he concluded to raucous applause.
Hawk Newsome is the president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. He has zealously sought justice for those slain by law enforcement through undue force. He spoke to the freedom from fear.
"Many people will say you need unity to conquer fear. I contend that that's a lie. I believe we need friendship to conquer fear. We need friendship to combat hate," he said. "Unity can make you stand up and say 'I'm against attacks on Jewish people.' Friendship looks like bringing Jewish people into black and brown communities to have dinner and gain a better understanding of each other."
He finished his address with a challenge to the crowd.
"Be at the forefront, don't be sheep. Lead the way and do not be afraid. Rise up for your friends, rise up with love, and rise up with your energy," he finished.
Third speaker Logan Malik spoke of the freedom from want and wrapped it in a call for environmental change and a green future through the Green New Deal. Malik works with the Berkshire Environmental Action Plan and No Fracked Gas in Mass.
"With so much fear and uncertainty it is difficult to remain hopeful and optimistic about the future of our country. No issue embodies this unease more than the existential threat of climate change. Ice sheets are melting, sea levels are rising, Australia is burning and scientists are telling us we have less than ten years to avoid the worst effects," he began. "The Green New Deal is also directly connected to the optimism set out in Roosevelt's 1941 speech. It exudes hope that in addressing the most challenging issue of our time we will not only preserve those things that we hold most dear but we will make our world more just and equitable."
Jenn Smith is the community engagement editor for The Berkshire Eagle and she spoke about the ever-increasing threat to the freedom of the press.
"There was a time in our nation's not too distant history that there would have been a good chance that people like me, someone who shares my complexion, who shares my gender, would not be invited to a public stage. In some people's minds it still may be hard for them to respect someone like me. Just because I'm brown and just because I'm a woman, and that's got to change," she said. "I'm here today as a proud member of the press. An institution founded on our collective pursuits of freedom and democracy, for transparency, for justice, accountability and progress."
She called for a greater understanding and cooperation between the press and the public.
"Let me be clear ... we are not your enemy. But we are also here for you to hold us accountable," Smith said. "I'm here today to remind you that the free press — uncensored by fear and government discontent — is meant to uphold fair representation of 'We The People.' And that the members of the press are your allies in holding our certain inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom of speech is our sword and our shield to wield in protecting our collective humanity."
Markey had attended and spoke at the first march in 2017. The last speaker to take the stage, he delivered a energetic and sweeping 15 minutes that touched on several hot-button issues.
"My question here in 2020 is are you willing to fight? What I propose today is that we apply FDR's Four Freedoms with a 2020 vision. Freedom No. 1: freedom from war. We can not escalate tensions in Iran and the Middle East without congressional authorization. Freedom No. 2: freedom from our climate crisis. The climate crisis is the economic, national security, health, and moral issue of our time. That is why I partnered with Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez [of New York] for the Green New Deal," the senator told the crowd.
Kate McGuire, CEO of Berkshire Theatre Group, was host for the afternoon.
"What we're talking about in the Green New Deal is called jobs. The Green New Deal will be the greatest force for blue-collar union job creation in a generation," the senator claimed. "We must unleash a wind and solar and storage technology, and all electric vehicles and all electric building and energy efficiency so that we will bury the power of the fossil fuel industry.
"Freedom No. 3: freedom from gun violence. Ban assault weapons, pass universal background checks, close the gun show loophole and make the NRA stand for 'Not Relevant Anymore.'
"Freedom No. 4: freedom from social injustice and inequality. Today freedom is being dismantled. Our shared values as a nation of liberty, equality, and justice for all are under direct assault. An assault led by interests and forces fueled by lies, and racism, and sexism, and xenophobia and fear. These forces have their own four freedoms. Freedom from the truth, freedom from accountability, freedom from decency, freedom from the rule of law. You do not make America great again by making America hate again."
With the crowd in full roar, Markey doubled down and spoke of the Berkshiress' role in the country's history.
"We are Massachusetts, we don't get to sit on the sidelines. We are not just the Bay State we are the brave state. The Berkshires have always been revolutionary," he said, repeating an enumeration of firsts he'd made before. "This is where the American Revolution began. This is where the abolitionist movement began. This is where the Suffragist movement began. This where the Freedom riders went South in the 1960s. This is where the same-sex marriage revolution began. This is where the health-care-for-all revolution began. You are revolutionaries and we must stand up to protect the Four Freedoms of every single person who lives in the United States of America."
The afternoon's program was interspersed with performances from local noted musicians and performers. The Kids 4 Harmony Elayne P. Bernstein octet performed Beethoven; the Berkshire Hills Chorus sang three tunes; the step dance group Sankofa from Williams College was wildly received; noted musicians Paul Green, Benny Kohn, Jason Ennis, and Natalie Bernal performed; and the program ended with music from Wes Buckley, Marisa Massery, and Chantell McFarland.
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