Spotlight on Greylock Together

by Catherine Walthers

The Greylock Together group in the northwest corner of the Massachusetts derives its name from Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state with views of the 3 bordering states on a clear day. And like its namesake, GT Indivisible serves as a focal point for the many activists and progressives who flocked to this group.

The first gathering, the day after Trump was elected in 2016, drew 75 shell-shocked area residents. Over four years, the mailing list grew to 1,026 from area towns including North Adams and Williamstown, home to Williams College, world-class art museums and winding country roads. Resisting the Trump agenda and protests evolved into building relationships with local and state leaders and holding them accountable, collaborating with other area progressive groups, and keeping a watchful eye on local, state and national issues.

An article written in 2019 in the Berkshire Eagle newspaper about this group found “a savvy crowd of battle-hardened resistance veterans digging in to find new and better ways to shift the course of public policy to a more progressive direction.” Steering committee leader Wendy Penner agrees.

Group members include area resident Patrie Sardo, involved with Moms Demand Action and the Gun Sense Action Network, who gave a presentation after two recent mass shootings, as well as Abby Reifsnyder who helped organize weekly BLM vigils throughout the summer in partnership with the First Church of Williamstown. Local teacher Alexander Davis serves on the leadership team and helps write the newsletter. “We have been blessed with a shocking abundance of brilliant activists in our area,” says Davis about the group’s effectiveness.

“I’ve been an activist for a long time, usually by myself and from afar,” says Davis, who teaches English at Mt. Greylock Regional School. “That can be pretty difficult, and sometimes you can feel as though you’re barely making a difference. But the sudden boom of local activism that erupted here, like spring wildflowers, made me feel like I could be a part of something important. Greylock Together has made a difference.”

“We wanted to create a big umbrella and the language and platform of Indivisible allows us to do that,” says Penner, a community organizer and resident of Williamstown who says it’s often about thinking globally and acting locally. “For me, anyhow, this is about creating transformational change – our world is very broken. We can’t just work locally. We can’t just work nationally. We need to be changing people’s hearts and minds to understand that issues of justice and equity really need to be at the forefront of moving our country and our planet forward.”

At last Sunday’s monthly zoom meeting, about 40 people heard from local candidates in a hotly contested race for the Select Board, and received an update on national voting rights. “People are very, very concerned (about voter suppression); this is a pivotal moment for our democracy,” says Penner.

Penner says leaders meet every other week to organize the events and group’s meetings, but adds that they welcome members working on their projects and passions. Member Sarah Clader helps organize the postcard efforts. Last election cycle the group sent 15,000 postcards to get out the vote. This year so far, postcards have gone to voters in West Virginia and Arizona about the For the People Act.

Member Mary Alcott Ferger produced a blog she called “Trump: A Daily Chronicle,” archiving major news each day of the Trump administration and Republicans as well as some of the resistance. It ran on her website, Muckraker Farm, and the GT newsletter included a link. “It is my hope that knowing and remembering the history will lead many to become active in the pursuit of justice, equity, and progressive policies,” Ferger explains. Ferger also produced a history of Greylock Together in 225 slides. It’s a great overview of the group’s many, many activities.

“We have learned by doing,” says activist leader Jessica Dils, who answered Geraldine Shen’s call for the initial gathering back in 2016 and has continued non-stop organizing efforts since. “There is a place for each community member to use their voice and come together toward a vision of leadership that pushes to impact the daily lives of regular people. We can have an impact, not just on outcomes but on our shared sense of belonging.”