Around Amherst: Town marking Human Rights Day with vigil, front-line speakers


Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2021 9:13:11 AM
Modified: 12/8/2021 9:12:43 AM

AMHERST — Human Rights Day is being marked with events in downtown Amherst on Friday and Saturday.

The commemorations begin at 6 p.m. Friday with the reading of a proclamation adopted by the Town Council this week. The candlelight vigil is held on the North Common near the Merry Maple, said Communications Manager Brianna Sunryd.

The proclamation states that Amherst is dedicated to human rights and “that each one of us, everywhere and at all times, is entitled to the full range of human rights, and that it is every person’s responsibility to uphold them; they bind us together as a global community.”

Following the proclamation will be a communal reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948.

On Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Woodbury Room in Jones Library, a Human Rights Day remembrance will focus on issues for Amnesty International, including the rights of prisoners, children and women.

Program speakers will be local Amnesty members. They are:

■Mohamed Elgadi, a longtime advocate for human rights who endured torture in the Ghost Houses prisons of Sudan, has long headed up key human rights organizations. He is a coordinator of the Amherst-Western Mass chapter of Amnesty.

■Alexis Stranko, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is an activist against child trafficking and child soldiering. She has been a volunteer in the protection of children who are subject to abuse, and she has been a mentor for children striving for education.

■Emily Grybko, co-president of the Amnesty chapter at Amherst Regional High School, who has worked extensively on women’s rights, and gender, sexuality and identity-based human rights. She has several years of experience with Massachusetts Amnesty and the Youth Social Media team.

Coinciding with these events is a virtual Human Rights Art Exhibit by Amherst Regional Middle School students. Their work can be viewed online on the Jones Library and Amherst Media websites.

Councilor orientation

All six new Amherst town councilors participated in a recent Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association orientation.

The free event, sponsored by the organization that represents 600 councilors in 59 communities, took place at the Courtyard by Marriott in Marlborough on Dec. 4.

Among those speaking at the event were Arlington Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler, who served as Amherst’s finance director for five years, and Agawam Treasurer/Collector Melissa Zawadzki, a former councilor. There also was a dedicated networking session.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said the town is holding its own orientation for councilors on Monday, preparing them for the Town Council’s new year, which is expected to begin with an in-person meeting on Jan. 3.

Diversity, equity and inclusion director

Amherst is seeking its first director for the new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The director will review and make recommendations to revise policies, procedures, bylaws, values, goals and missions to foster an unbiased and inclusive environment that is free of discrimination, harassment and negative stereotyping toward any person or group.

The person hired will also serve as the town’s human rights director. The starting annual salary is $74,895 to $100,652.

Shutesbury library

The recent Giving Tuesday helped the town of Shutesbury raise money that will go toward the eventual construction of a new library.

“I’m very pleased to report that, in all, the Friends of the M.N. Spear Memorial Library received 193 donations totaling $35,000,” said Library Director Mary Anne Antonellis.

Before the Nov. 30 event, an anonymous $5,000 matching gift was offered, which was matched before Giving Tuesday began, Antonellis said. A second gift of $2,500 also was matched.

The next fundraiser for the new library fund is selling the 2022 Shutesbury calendar, which has photos submitted by residents. The calendars also inform residents about the Wednesday trash and recycling pickup, including which weeks paper and cardboard are picked up.

Leverett fundraiser

A holiday baskets silent auction is running through Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Leverett Village Co-op.

The themed baskets for the winter fundraiser include ones titled “Birdwatching,” “Children’s Literature,” “Games Night,” “New Year’s Eve,” “Wildlife Tracking,” “Massage Therapy & Wellness” and “Happy Dog.”

Bidders use bidding sheets to bid as often as they like. The fundraiser helps the co-op stay open during the winter months when there are typically fewer customers. The co-op is open every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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