The Northampton Reparations Committee (NRC) was formed in 2021 with a mission to join local residents in spurring our City Councilors and the Mayor to action in forming a commission that studies racial harms against Black Americans and that makes recommendations for a city-allotted reparative fund.
Our group believes that Northampton has a long history with racial injustice that reaches back to the city’s complicity in the institution of slavery up until 1783, when slavery was abolished in Massachusetts. Members of the NRC and many others agree that, together, we now have an opportunity to make amends and promote a fairer and more welcoming community!
Many committee members have decades-long experience in activism for racial justice and have performed service to the City of Northampton, some as former city commission members and others as volunteers. They bring to this effort on-going outreach to encourage learning and collaboration with community groups across the city.
The Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee erected a statue in 2002. Image by Sarah Lynn Patterson.
Sojourner Truth (formerly Isabella Baumfree) was born into slavery in 1797 and died in 1883 as a free woman. She was a member of the historical, utopian community of Florence known as the Northampton Association for Education and Industry (1842-1846).
Meet the Committee
John Berkowitz of Northampton has fought for racial justice throughout his 75 years–first in Washington DC, then Vermont, and currently in the Connecticut River valley. He is a retired but still active activist for peace and economic, racial, and environmental justice. He has helped raise reparations funds for such organizations as the National Poor People’s Campaign and The Equal Justice Initiative and its Peace and Justice Museum in Montgomery, AL. He recently joined the Board of Fund for Reparations Now (FFRN), a white group allied with the National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC). FFRN has raised over $300,000 in support of the Elaine, Arkansas Legacy Center which is memorializing the 1919 Massacre there.
Sara Lennox Until her retirement Sara Lennox taught German Studies and directed a social justice program at UMass. Her scholarship focused on Black German Studies. Since retiring she’s focused on race and social justice issues in Northampton. She was an advisor to Historic Northampton’s recently-completed Slavery Research Project, which documents and chronicles the lives of enslaved people in Northampton up to slavery’s abolition in Massachusetts in 1783. She is a member of the Committee of the David Ruggles Center for History and Education, which focuses on abolitionism in this region and Florence’s utopian community in the 1840s. She is also a board member of Northampton Neighbors, an organization dedicated to building community among seniors to enable them to stay in their own homes as they age.
Sarah Lynn Patterson, PhD is a Black scholar and a volunteer who is involved in local social justice causes. She is an assistant professor of English at University of Massachusetts Amherst with research and teaching in African American literature, 19th-century American culture, and reform movements. Her current research also focuses on histories of protest in Massachusetts. She has taught/facilitated many academic workshops related to the public humanities in the digital age. She is an editor and contributing author for the scholarly volume The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century (2021).
Andrea Reber After retiring from a long career in clinical social work, Andrea Reber has been devoting most of her time to anti-racism work. She is a member of Racial Equity and Learning [REAL] in the Northampton Public Schools and the Racial Justice Team at the Unitarian Society. She also actively supports a variety of events and projects created by members of an African American community she knows in Springfield. She is committed to working with other white people toward Somatic Abolitionism, as described in the work of Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.
Tom Weiner has been an anti-racism activist for 50 years. He ran a program for inner city children in Hartford from ’69-’71. He taught inner city h.s. students at Upward Bound at UCONN from 1970-1995. He taught 3rd- 6th grade for 40 years at the Smith College Campus School with an emphasis on Social Justice through history and literature. He is a member of Bridge4Unity, an anti-racism group with partners in Kentucky and North Carolina. He is on the board of the American Friends of the Palestinian House of Friendship, which supports programs for Palestinian children in the West Bank. He participates in monthly meetings of a men’s cross race dialogue group. He is a founding member of the Northampton Reparations Committee and is currently writing a book with Dr. Amilcar Shabazz entitled In Defiance: Lives that Mattered in the Struggle for Racial Justice and Equality before the U.S. Civil War.
Carolyn Toll Oppenheim is a former reporter for The Chicago Tribune where she covered city government and race and ethnic relations. As an Emerson College journalism professor, she taught reporting on diversity: race, ethnicity, religion, and nationalism. She has trained journalists from emerging democracies to work in ethnically mixed societies (former Yugoslavia) for the Institute for Training and Development in Amherst, MA. As a student during the Civil Rights era, she organized mixed-race sit-in to end segregation in stores and restaurants in Evansville (southern) Indiana.
Sara Weinberger is a professor emeritus of social work from Western New England University. Her social work values, as well as being a Jewish adult child of Holocaust survivors, have contributed to her passion for social justice. She is active in several organizations that advocate for human rights locally and globally and writes a monthly column for The Daily Hampshire Gazette.
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