Kathie Penna, Central Berkshire

Our Central Berkshire Unit evolved from a small group. We—as invested members of our community—got together to talk about how we could make the biggest impact in speaking up and out for the rights of those in our city, county, state, and country.

We have great respect for the work women of earlier Leagues have done. It has been a reminder for us to not take anything for granted, as their early work has even more importance and relevance in 2017. It is however, equally important for our voices to be heard during this critical time.

As 2016 came to a close, we witnessed many injustices and wanted to take a stance on the issues that we were passionate about. Our group wanted to focus on our local community as more of a grassroots effort, yet be connected to something bigger.
In order to be successful in increasing the number of registered voters and voter turnout in our community, we recognized the importance of being non-partisan. The League as an organization has the ability to bring all parties and political groups together based on common ground. We are motivated and inspired by the issues that are so fundamental to the League of Women Voters, as well as the impact we can make focusing on the issues rather than a specific candidate or party.

Since becoming a recognized unit on July 24th, our Central Berkshire group has participated in four local events, each providing voter registration, education on the League itself, and membership opportunities. At our most recent event, we obtained signatures for a large poster that has been sent to the League of Women Voters in Charlottesville, offering our support and friendship. This small gesture evolved into an amazing opportunity for discussion of the issues we are faced with, as well as offering a safe space for people to share. Many thanked us for standing up for what is just, and thanked the League for its stance.

We are currently exploring ways to collaborate with our local NAACP and the Human Rights Commission on community projects. As we grow, it is essential that we grow as diversely as possible, representing our community more effectively.

The Central Berkshire League of Women Voters is passionate about hosting political debates and/or forums. On November 7, an important local election will take place. It is our goal to hold at least one debate/forum, allowing all the candidates to address the citizens of Pittsfield, while giving constituents the opportunity to ask questions. We hope to partner with other local non-partisan organizations to make this a successful representation of our commitment to our community.

We thank the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts for their guidance and resources, which have allowed our unit to form and begin to thrive!