Greenfield art-making event asks residents to reimagine community safety

  • County residents gathered on the Greenfield Common Sunday for an interactive art installation on community safety, organized by the Franklin County Racial Justice Collective. Contributed Photo

  • Organized by the Franklin County Racial Justice Collective, a Sunday event saw community members bring art supplies, instruments and their dancing feet to the Greenfield Common for a day of collaborative art-making and discussion. Contributed Photo

  • Franklin County Racial Justice Collective organizers partnered with Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center to display a mural that was created by piecing together hexagons that were written or drawn on by attendees. Each hexagon had an answer to the question of what community safety means to them. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2020 8:44:00 AM

Residents from across the county brought their art supplies, instruments and dancing feet to the Greenfield Common on Sunday for a day of collaborative art-making and a discussion of what community safety means to them.

Brieanna Arsenault, the event organizer with the Franklin County Racial Justice Collective, a group that aims to engage the community in the Black Lives Matter movement and help people understand the cultural shift happening across the country, said the goal was to get people involved in learning how to help heal the racial divide and bring justice for people targeted by racism.

“We put out the general question, ‘What does community safety look like to you?’” Arsenault said.

Some suggestions, she said, included different emergency numbers to call instead of the police department, depending on the scenario. For example, if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, someone could call a non-police emergency number and a first responder trained to handle mental health situations would be dispatched.

“Lots of situations that police respond to — one, they’re not adequately trained for and two, they may not have that person’s best interest in mind or they are not empathetic,” Arsenault said. “The first step is not to arrest, but to help people with restorative justice. Not with just handcuffs and charges.”

According to Arsenault, other attendees spoke to the need for members of public safety departments to not arrive to a situation with previous judgment or prejudice.

“I don’t speak on behalf of all people of color, but personally I do not feel comfortable around police officers. I just don’t,” said Arsenault, who is Black.

She said residents also thought relying on each other was an important part of community safety.

The Franklin County Racial Justice Collective aimed to make Sunday’s activities interactive, and the group partnered with Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center to display a mural in the Main Street venue’s window. The mural was created by piecing together hexagons that were written or drawn on by event attendees.

Each hexagon had an answer to the question of what community safety means.

While the mural was not filled Sunday, Arsenault said organizers are planning to host weekly events on the common soon, and she hopes to fill the mural as the events carry on. These may also include screenings of films and documentaries pertaining to racial injustice and the Black experience in America.

At the end of the day Sunday, a montage of pictures and videos collected from Black Lives Matter movements around the world was projected onto the facade of the former First National Bank.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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