Around Amherst: Latinx Heritage Celebration takes over Common on Sunday

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 09-22-2023 1:29 PM

AMHERST — Amherst’s second annual Latinx Heritage Celebration, with salsa lessons, music and food, is set for Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. on the Town Common.

Coinciding with Latino Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the celebration is being put on by the Human Rights Commission, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Amherst Recreation, and comes two days after town officials raise the Puerto Rican flag in front of Town Hall.

The Town Council this week adopted a proclamation marking Sept. 22 as Puerto Rican Heritage Day, with the flag to be displayed for a week to help cultivate awareness for all residents.

The proclamation states that “residents of Amherst of Puerto Rican descent have made many positive contributions to the town and local community,” and the town’s residents “wish to express our support to the residents of Puerto Rico who are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria six years ago.”

Unlike recent years, though, the flag-raising will not be accompanied by an event with keynote speakers and performances by schoolchildren.

Marta Guevara, director of Student and Family Engagement for the public schools, explained that there was insufficient time for planning with the continued fallout from the alleged mistreatment of LGTBQ students at the middle school.

“We are committed to continue the tradition, but we have to concentrate on supporting all of our students after everything that happened last year,” Guevara said. 

In 2019, the event was moved from the often colder and wetter November to September. Even with work underway on the North Common renovation, Town Manager Paul Bockelman said the flag-raising should be on the U.N. flagpole closest to Town Hall.

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In case of rain Sunday, the Latinx Heritage Celebration will move to Crocker Farm Elementary School.

Financial team

Comptroller Holly Drake and Treasurer/Collector Jennifer LaFountain are the co-interim finance directors following the departure of Sean Mangano for a position with the Holyoke public schools.

In the budget development process, which is beginning this fall, Town Council Clerk Athena O’Keeffe will take on a leadership role by working with Drake, LaFountain and Bockelman. Specifically, O’Keeffe will coordinate and review department budgets and work on developing final budget documents.

Bockelman told the Town Council that he appreciates O’Keeffe’s doing this added work until a new finance director is hired.

“Everybody needs support. The fact that Athena stepped up to take on this role, you know well she’s super organized, and that’s exactly what we needed,” Bockelman said. 

Voting rights

The League of Women Voters Judy Brooks Series begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a presentation by CUNY Law Professor Matthew Charity titled “The Role of Race in Voting Rights and Education.”

Charity previously served on the faculty of Western New England University in Springfield in the areas of international law and human rights and chaired the Amherst Human Rights Commission. To register for the program, go to lwvamherst.org for a Zoom link.

The League’s Racial Justice Committee honors longtime local educator, civic leader and League member Judy Harris Brooks.

Police promotion

Amherst police Officer Thomas W. Clark Jr. was recently promoted to the rank of sergeant by interim Police Chief Gabriel Ting, taking over a position vacated by Lt. Todd S. Lang.

Clark, a patrol officer since April 2010, became the department’s first K9 officer in 2014 when K9 Dash joined the force. Since then, Clark and Dash have tracked and located missing persons, conducted building searches, done criminal apprehension and crowd control, and handled evidence and drug detection.

During his tenure at the Police Department, Clark has been a member of the search and rescue team, bicycle patrol unit and crisis intervention team.  In 2017, he was awarded a letter of merit for outstanding courage, teamwork and sound judgment in response to a double shooting, including one fatality, on Oct. 15, 2016.  In 2020, he was awarded a second letter of merit for exceptional actions in response to a volatile scene in which a victim was protected from violence and the aggressor was arrested.

Clark, who obtained an associate degree in criminal justice from Holyoke Community College in 2006 and two years later earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Westfield State University, resides with his wife, Ashley, and two daughters, Madison and Aubrey.

Ice cream talk

Steve Herrell, founder of Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton, will discuss his book “Ice Cream and Me,” co-authored with Allie Martineau, at the Amherst Woman’s Club’s tea and conversation on Monday.

The talk begins at 1:30 p.m. and will be followed by an ice cream social. Both club members and the public are invited to attend. The club is located at 35 Triangle St.

Meetings

TUESDAY: Joint Town Council and School Committee meeting, 6 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

WEDNESDAY: Personnel Board, 10 a.m., First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall.

THURSDAY: Cultural Council, 6 p.m.

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