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EXTENDED: OneHolyoke CDC Receives COVID-19 Community Grant

January 19, 2021

It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit and changed life for us all. Studies show that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by this health crisis. Each week, the city of Holyoke is consistently listed as a high-risk community on the Massachusetts COVID-19 map. Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, Director of Community Engagement and Resident Services at OneHolyoke CDC, spoke with Zydalis Bauer about a new COVID-19 comm

It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit and changed life for us all. Studies show that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by this health crisis. Each week, the city of Holyoke is consis

It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit and changed life for us all. Studies show that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by this health crisis. Each week, the city of Holyoke is consistently listed as a high-risk community on the Massachusetts COVID-19 map. Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, Director of Community Engagement and Resident Services at OneHolyoke CDC, spoke with Zydalis Bauer about a new COVID-19 comm

It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit and changed life for us all. Studies show that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by this health crisis. 

Each week, the city of Holyoke is consistently listed as a high-risk community on the Massachusetts COVID-19 map. Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, Director of Community Engagement and Resident Services at OneHolyoke CDC, spoke with Zydalis Bauer about a new COVID-19 community grant the organization recently received. The grant funds will be used to provide education and resources to Holyoke residents to reduce the spread of COVID-19 cases in the Paper City. 

Read the transcript

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit and changed life for us all. And studies have shown that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by this health crisis. Each week, the city of Holyoke is consistently listed as a high-risk community, according to the state's COVID-19 map.

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, Director of Community Engagement and Resident Services at OneHolyoke CDC, spoke with me about a new grant that the organization recently received to help provide education and resources to Holyoke residents to reduce the spread and rise of COVID-19 cases in the city.

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, OneHolyoke CDC: Going back from the beginning and up until now, the changes in a lot of community events, in decreasing a lot of the community supports that are around for residents to be able to have some type of an outlet. I mean, that has been a huge effect, I know for our residents, especially in our elderly building, not being able to have events in our community room.

You know, they've been isolated. They're feeling a little bit of depression and just feeling really down. And then for those families have been affected personally, like, you know, I've had deaths in my family for COVID, and I know a lot of our residents in Holyoke that have had family members that they've lost to COVID.

So, I think it's been a huge effect emotionally, a huge effect financially, you know some families that have lost their income, lost their jobs. I know in the very beginning I helped a lot of residents do unemployment claims. And at the beginning, I mean, trying to get a hold of unemployment was difficult.

So, I think that, you know, COVID and Holyoke has affected a lot of residents in so many different ways. Financially, emotionally and just really and just in the physical aspect as well, you know, trying to do things that they no longer, you know, that they no longer can do.

Zydalis Bauer: And in order to address some of these issues that are affecting the residents in Holyoke, OneHolyoke recently received a COVID-19 community grant. What is this grant? What's the goal of it?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: Well, the grant is awarded through the Department of Public Health and Health Resources in Action. And the goal of this grant is to be able to promote and provide education and outreach to families in high, disproportionate-rated COVID diagnoses.

And so, we're trying to make sure that all of our families within the community, especially the Latinx and Black communities, to have resources and information that they need to be able to understand COVID. Know how to be safe around this situation and, and really just try to get out as much information into the community as possible.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, there have been a number of national reports with data showing that these minority communities are being particularly affected by COVID.

Working in Holyoke with the residents as closely as you do, why do you think some of those reasons are for this disproportionate cases?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: Some of the reasons are large families. You know, the fact that Holyoke does have lots of buildings and lots of congregated areas within those building.

And so, lots of multifamily leads within apartments, you have grandparents, children, grandchildren, all living together. And so, some children that might have COVID and not really have any symptoms, but then their grandparents are living with them and they're affected. So, I think that is something that could probably be related to it.

I think also just really having a community where people are used to congregating together in different events and doing things in the household. I think culturally in the Latino family, you know, we are used to -- I know that for myself, we're used to coming together for different activities and different things, and not being able to do that is a little different. And so I think that increases that rate of exposure.

Zydalis Bauer: What type of work is this grant going to allow OneHolyoke to do in the community?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, OneHolyoke CDC: So, a lot of the work that we are planning to do is going to be a good social media and media outlet. It's putting out key messages.

You know, the five key messages.It's wearing a mask. It's washing your hands consistently. It's you know, if you're feeling that you're sick and you have some symptoms, getting tested; it's staying home while you have some symptoms.

It's those five key messages that we're going to promote using a lot of the funding and we're going to get the information out there in any avenue that we can. In radio stations, in local supermarkets, kind of like some of the work that OneHolyoke did with the census.

Zydalis Bauer: Holyoke has a large Latino population. Will there be ways for this community to get information in their native languages?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: Yes, absolutely. Most of or hopefully all of everything that we're going to be promoting will be in English and Spanish.

We're going to be doing some events via Zoom, and that has an interpretation application that can be added. So, folks would be able, in any language, to tune in and have that information available in their in their native language.

But a lot of the information that we're going to be sharing, whether it's fliers, whether it's information, it's going to be in English and Spanish.

Zydalis Bauer: Do you see, working with the residents in the community, have you seen a need for this information in their language? Is there, is this something new that they haven't really had access to before?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: I think that there's a lot of information out there in different languages. And I think that as it applies specifically to Holyoke, I mean, we have other organizations that have been promoting testing sites in English and Spanish, that have been promoting just where, you know, where they could get potential protective equipment.

We have different associations that share or give out and face masks and stuff. And those fliers and that information is really displayed or shared in English and Spanish. I think that doing more of it would obviously benefit the community.

But definitely I think that we are doing, in Holyoke especially because of the population being so largely Latinos, that definitely it is something that is shared in English and Spanish.

Zydalis Bauer: Beyond just getting sick and worrying about those issues with COVID, COVID has taken a toll on mental health and businesses on a number of things.

Are there any other ways that you're going to support the community during this time through this grant, beyond the mask wearing, hand washing, those types of things?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, OneHolyoke CDC: I mean, we are going to be distributing things or supplies that we might need. We're going to be distributing them. So we're going to get actual equipment in the hand of families, if they need it.

We will continue to provide information and resources around what's available for families that are with limited income or that their income has changed.

And so, we will be doing a lot of that as well. I know that for our tenants and for OneHolyoke, we have shared in our website and in our social media just the eviction information. And if they were to be approached around eviction, what their rights are.

And our Executive Director, Michael Moriarity, has shared that information so families can become aware of what their rights are and how they can protect themselves from eviction and things like that.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, for you personally, what would you love to see the outcome of this grant be?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, OneHolyoke CDC: I mean, my goal would be to reduce the COVID rate. Right now, we're in the red in the city. And in just trying to really have as many families, you know, promoting safe usage and not trying not to congregate, trying to stay within the household families.

I think I'd like to see Holyoke get out of the red. I'd like to see that we are, you know, that our numbers are decreasing, that people are maintaining that safe distance, that people are wearing their mask to reduce the risk of COVID, you know, diagnosis and all of that.

Zydalis Bauer: This time has been challenging for all of us in many different ways.  How does it feel for you to be part of this work, this community work that you're doing?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: I mean, for me, it's inspiring. It's rewarding. It's how can I get information out to my community?

The fact that we have a team supporting us, believing in what we do for community engagement, believing in that, we have we're out there, we're in the community.

I mean, we did a lot of work with census. And so now it's COVID. And it's like, what else can we get involved with? How else can we share information to families to reduce risk and and to increase education and increase access?

Whatever OneHolyoke can do to be able to meet those needs, that's what we're there for. So, I think that for me, it feels so rewarding to be a part of an organization and to receive certain grants that can really make an impact directly to families that either we serve, because they are our tenants or they live in our apartment buildings, or that live in the area where we are.

We're in Holyoke. And so to be able to impact families right within our city, I mean, that makes it very, very inspiring and very rewarding for me.

Zydalis Bauer: What should residents of Holyoke be on the lookout for, for this campaign?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: We have created a new logo for this campaign where it's Holyoke: Stay safe. So, you'll be seeing that badge in our social media. You'll see it on our website. We also are going to be creating a link to our website, a new kind of direction page that will have a lot of the resources and things that we're sharing on there.

You'll see us in the different outreach events that we will be doing. You'll see us being able to provide some supplies, and some of the information with this new logo. So, look for that. Once you see those that logo, you know, that that's part of this grant and trying to get that information out there and share it! Share with your family members and share it with other community organizations, so that we all have one place to know where a lot of this information for Holyoke is going to be.

Zydalis Bauer: And what are some of the resources that will be available to community members through this grant?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: Some of the resources that we are looking into having are: face mask and gloves and face shields and goggles and cleaning and disinfecting things.

And just really trying to keep our city and our residents with as much supplies as possible to be able to be safe around each other, whether it's their own household or whether if it's at work or in their buildings. And so, just really being able to get as many things to the residents of Holyoke as possible.

Zydalis Bauer: And are these resources free for residents of Holyoke and are all residents -- do all residents have access to the resources?

Nayroby Rosa-Soriano: Yes. All the all the resources will be free, and all the information will be free. And all residents have access to it through our website, through our social media pages. They can follow links to our website, which will tell them exactly where we'll be or what we're doing and what's next for this information surge that we're trying to get to everyone.

It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit and changed life for us all. Studies show that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by this health crisis. Each week, the city of Holyoke is consistently listed as a high-risk community on the Massachusetts COVID-19 map. Nayroby Rosa-Soriano, Director of Community Engagement and Resident Services at OneHolyoke CDC, spoke with Zydalis Bauer about a new COVID-19 comm

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EXTRA: Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery on the MLK Presbyterian Church Fire

January 18, 2021

On December 28th, 2020 the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield was burned. An arrest has been made on arson charges in connection with the fire.Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spoke with the church's Pastor, Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, about the significance of the church, and the legacy it carries in Dr. King's name.We’ll have more on the burning of the church and the impact on the congregation next Friday on Connecting P

On December 28th, 2020 the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield was burned. An arrest has been made on arson charges in connection with the fire.Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spoke with the church's Pastor,

On December 28th, 2020 the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield was burned. An arrest has been made on arson charges in connection with the fire.Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spoke with the church's Pastor, Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, about the significance of the church, and the legacy it carries in Dr. King's name.We’ll have more on the burning of the church and the impact on the congregation next Friday on Connecting P

On December 28th, 2020 the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield was burned. An arrest has been made on arson charges in connection with the fire.

Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spoke with the church's Pastor, Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, about the significance of the church, and the legacy it carries in Dr. King's name.

We’ll have more on the burning of the church and the impact on the congregation next Friday on Connecting Point.

Read the Full Transcript

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, Pastor, MLK Presbyterian Church: So, the first indication that I got that there was a fire was through an email where someone said they had seen it on television and I said they had the wrong church. So, I was a little in disbelief. And then the call came in about 30 minutes later to tell me that the church had burned.

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: When do you think you really were able to process the fact that this had happened here?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: I think I'm still processing it, if I'm being honest, because there are times when I get you know, it's been go, go, go. But when I had that moment to just kind of sit and say, "OK, there's no church building there anymore."

Ross Lippman: How bad is the damage here?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: It's - it's pretty bad.

Ross Lippman: Is going to have to be a total rebuild?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: Well, it -it will be a total rebuild. The damage itself in the inside, has been estimated at one hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.

When a church is named after Dr. King - and I believe that Dr. King embodied Christ and embodied manifesting the God within him - and I believe that when that happens, we as members of that church, we're not only carrying the requirement that God calls us to do justice, to love mercy, but Dr. King stood for that. And so for me, particularly as a leader, I know that I'm walking in that legacy and that is important for me to do the exact same thing and to lead with love power.

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: And I know that you ought to be saying amen, because it's still the same today.

Ross Lippman: 2020 was a year where we as a nation confronted racial injustice in a way that we hadn't since Dr. King had been alive. And for you, on one of the very last days of 2020, for this church to be burned, what did that mean to you and what did that mean to the congregants here?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: You know, sadly, I can't say that a church burning, a black church burning, is a surprise. Because historically, that's what's happened in this country when people want to terrorize people of color or really want to say,"I don't like you" or "You're worthless" or really to take your spirit.

Because that's what this is about when it's a church. That people go to burning the church, but what they don't understand is that the spirit that lives within us as children of God. and the spirit that lives within us as as people of color is not the church building. So, yes, it's hurtful to burn down the church, but we move on.

On December 28th, 2020 the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield was burned. An arrest has been made on arson charges in connection with the fire.Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spoke with the church's Pastor, Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, about the significance of the church, and the legacy it carries in Dr. King's name.We’ll have more on the burning of the church and the impact on the congregation next Friday on Connecting P

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EXTENDED: Previewing the Inauguration of Joe Biden

January 15, 2021

On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and security will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.  Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Anthony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their pe

On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and security will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office ami

On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and security will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.  Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Anthony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their pe

On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and security will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.  

Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Anthony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their perspective on where the country is headed during a Biden administration and what the future holds for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. 

Read the transcript

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the forty-sixth President of the United States and security for the event will be unlike any in modern American history following last week's riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.

So, what can we expect on Inauguration Day? And will President Biden be able to unify the country and move it forward in a more bipartisan way?

Connecting Point's Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Tony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their perspective on where the country is headed during a Biden administration and what the future holds for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Anthony Cignoli, Political Consultant: It's an important opportunity, it's a necessary opportunity, for Joe Biden to make it very, very clear what's going to happen under him as President of the United States, the difference between himself and Donald Trump, laying out what the agenda is going to be.

But I believe it's already begun. The fact that Joe Biden spent twenty-five minutes on national media, national television, etc. on Thursday of this week, laying out--in  that twenty five minutes -- here's the initial aspect of what the Biden Administration that Biden-Harris Administration is going to do was important. Laying out that one point nine trillion dollars in expenditures to deal with job one, war one, which is COVID. I think he's already begun.

It's messaging, right? This inaugural it's all about messaging, not the pageantry and the pomp, much of which is gone because of COVID. It's really a massive message to all of America.

Ray Hershel, Connecting Point: And Ryan, as you look forward to the Inauguration speech and Tony talks about this message, what would you like the President-elect to say on Inauguration Day in terms of trying to bring the country together and heal this country, which has been so divided?

Ryan McCollum, Political Consultant, RMC Strategies: Yeah, I mean, it's an overused term around this time and it's unity. Um, and we're hearing it from both sides of the aisle, which is great after what happened. There are some folks on the Republican side who, who are talking about unity.

And you know that the cliche "I'm not the President for the blue America or the red America. I'm the President for all of America." We're going to hear a lot of that.

But it is really important, back to the security piece, that--that nothing happens. We can't -- we can't afford to have anything happen. My fear of having a constant insurgency in our country, of folks who who -- who want to change our government is a fear. And so, my first hope is that that nothing happens while -- while Biden is trying to make a speech.

Ray Hershel: And Ryan, as Tony alluded to, President-elect Biden has unveiled his $1.9 trillion dollar economic stimulus package, including $1,400 dollar checks for most Americans. Why don't I get your thoughts on whether or not you feel this entire package is going to be approved by Congress now?

Ray McCollum: I think so. I think I think Senate and Mitch Mitch McConnell has shown that he wants to play some ball. He's now going to be the minority leader. But even so, they could still there's so many different ways where Republicans can still obstruct Biden's agenda.

But I think we're going to go back to a place where, you know, not everybody loved it, but where Congress was somewhat functioning and there was deal-making and things were going on. And so, I do think they will. I mean, it might not be exactly what the President wants or the Democrats want, but I think something will happen.

Ray Hershel: Tony, not only is Joe Biden, of course, facing all these issues coming up, but the problem with COVID, the economic problems in the country, he's got Donald Trump's second Impeachment to deal with in terms of distraction and what's going on in Congress.

How do you feel that impeachment trial is going to impact his ability to get bipartisan support in Congress to get his agenda passed?

Anthony Cignoli: Well, a lot of that depends on what Mitch McConnell actually does or not, as the minority leader of the Senate at that point in time. How much does he ride hard on the members of the Republican Senate to do what they have done in the past and be partisan?

Because he released a few of these folks, does he let them vote their conscience? You know, it's a difficult question to prognosticate on for a whole bunch of reasons. This one is just on 12 boards at one time. But I do think it's going to be problematic.

As we've already heard, the Vice President, the President-elect, say definitively that he's hoping that this is something that they can do at the same time that they are getting through his nominations, approving his nominations for his cabinet. America has no time to wait in that regard. And the Biden Administration has no time to wait for all these folks to be in the positions we need them to do what they need to do for America.

Ray Hershel: Ryan, do you think it's going to be any easier for Joe Biden, when he is President, to gather more bipartisan support in Congress now that President Trump is out of office?

Ryan McCollum, Political Consultant, RMC Strategies: Absolutely, absolutely. I think Trump is not going to be as powerful as he used to be.

Now, he's still going to have a huge impact. And there are Republicans who got elected on Trump's coattails, who are Trumpist, for lack of better words, right? And so those folks aren't really going to change, right? So -- so a congresswoman who is who ascribes to QAnon, she's not going to change. There's not going to be any bipartisan work with her.

But the folks who are Republicans before Trump, who are worried about being primaried by people who were Trump allegiants, they're not going to have that concern as much anymore. They still will have the concern.

And so I think we're all sitting back to see what what Trump's next moves are. Does he start a news network? Does he start a PAC? Does what -- what is -- what is -- do they split off and start their own party?

We're all kind of sitting back and waiting to see what happens. But with all that said, I think the traditional Republicans, for a lack of better words, who Joe Biden has dealt with in the past and has relationships with, are going to play ball.

Ray Hershel: Tony, why don't you get your thoughts on the impeachment trial as it goes forward? Of course, the House has impeached President Trump for a second time. He's going to be tried in the Senate. Is there any likelihood you see any scenario whereby the Senate could, in fact, convict Donald Trump of the charges against him for impeachment?

Anthony Cignoli: There's a lot of politics at play here, and nothing is ever what it seems. It's always the tip of the iceberg that you see in politics, that top 20 percent with the other 80 percent below the water. There may, in fact, be members of the Republican United States Senate who are thinking about "Here's our opportunity, here's our chance. Let's get him gone. Let's add to the piling on of Donald Trump to remove him as a political powerhouse." Amongst Trumpers, not so much just the Republican Party.

What Ryan and I would both be familiar with right now is that 2022 is already on. We're polling already in congressional districts. We're looking already at next -- uh next competitions in the United States Senate.

Well, that's something that's going on in the minds of a few of those senators as well. Does it benefit them to support Trump as things unfold in the next week or two? More video, more facts, more more to be known about what actually just happened at the Capitol, who may have been involved? Could there have been Republican members of the Congress involved in what happened, et cetera.

As all that rolls out, that narrative is going to drive what's on the minds of a lot of these United States senators who are Republicans. It may be a situation where the party, their party, benefits by impeachment, by the taking the indictment of the House and making it a conviction in the Senate.

Ryan McCollum: I'm going to say, you know, just as important as the conviction is, getting these folks on record, right? So maybe now maybe they might not have enough votes. But, you know, I think that a lot of folks also think "we don't know what else Trump has done."

And over the next few years, more stuff is going to come out. And so now if you have if you decided not to vote to convict this man, and two or three more devastating things come out, they'll- - they'll run an ad against you.

And so, Republican senators have to really think about what their vote is going to mean, regardless of whether or not there's as many to get them removed or convicted, 'cause he's going to be already gone at that point.

Ray Hershel: Gentlemen, why don't I get your thoughts on what the future of Donald Trump is, in terms of being a player in the Republican Party as we go forward or as a potential candidate in 2024?

Do you see any kind of scenario where that could come to fruition? But what is Donald Trump's role going to be now over the next four years? Tony?

Anthony Cignoli: Sure, I think it continues to be the role that he's had, trying to be more so Disruptor-in-Chief, even as a political force. He has a following, no question. What that following is, after the events of last week, we're not sure.

I would be not taking a wild prognostication to say that I don't believe that if we were running for office today, that he's going to get 71 million votes as he did in the November election. I think there's been damage there.

Well, what role can he play, especially at a time when there's something else in mind? You've got a lot of huge corporations, big, big Republican donors. The gentleman who owns Home Depot, Charles Schwab, announcing that done, no more contributions to anyone that was involved with what went on last week.

And by that I mean not the insurrection, but more so those who voted not to say "yes" to the fact that Joe Biden was President of the United States. Those who do not vote to ratify the election, they are the ones right now being targeted by some of these large corporations.

They become a powerhouse, completely separate. Donald Trump, you may have a following. He may be powerful, but I don't think he can make up that kind of money that all of a sudden is coming out of American politics, as we roar towards 2022.

Ray Hershel: Ryan, how about you? Has Donald Trump been mortally wounded in terms of his political future?

Ryan McCollum: I don't know if he's been mortally wounded, but one of the things we have to remember is, is he going to get charged with crimes? Whether federally or by SDNY, by New York State?

And so if he's charged with crimes and he's not pardoned, I mean, we have we've been talking about pardoning, Trump being pardoned, whether he pardoned himself, whether he resigns and Pence pardons him. That's going to that's going to hurt to if he has some charges and he has to go through a trial.

But there's going to be a fraction of America that is going to be allegiant to him, no matter what. Now, how much that -- how much of that fraction does the Republican Party calculate they still need to keep? That's the question, right?

And so, you know, the Republican National Committee reelected a chairman or chairwoman who is who is a Trumper.  And so those things, you know, there's going to be an internal fight within the party until either they break off or not. I do also think that it's going to be hard for Donald Trump to resist starting, not starting up, some type of media company.

Ray Hershel: Tony, given your knowledge of Joe Biden as a U.S. Senator, a vice president, now president-elect, soon to be President of the United States. What qualities do you feel he exhibits that would make him the president for this time in terms of getting the country back on track, uniting the country and getting ahead of this COVID-19 pandemic, as well as getting the economy rolling again?

Anthony Cignoli: It is a long career and life trial, literally by trial. So many real- life issues have confronted this man, from the loss of of a wife and a child, from a loss later in later years of his son, Beau. He's been through things. He's been there also with Barack Obama for a wide variety of things. The incomprehensible economic horror story of the 2008 recession, largely where Barack Obama put a lot of the responsibility on Joe Biden to get things done by consensus, to get things done with the other side of the aisle.

He's been there for amazing things. I mean, he was in that situation room while Barack Obama and his team watched the taking of Osama Bin Laden. He's been through stuff. That's what he brings to this. He's tempered. He's like a sword that's been tempered over and over and over again by fire and by the forge and the pounding of metal. He's got that. He's got that other thing, too, that we haven't seen for a while in a president, a real spiritual well-being.

This guy guy's connected. He gets it. He understands. And I don't mean just that he goes to church every Sunday and has, as a true believer, kind of a God. It's actually part of his makeup just to be kinder and gentler to other human beings. There's a compassion there that's truly real with Joe Biden.

Ray Hershel: Ryan, as we know, the Democrats will now control Congress with the victories in Georgia, in the Senate races there. The Democrats regain control of the Senate, with Kamala Harris casting that deciding vote, if need be. Democrats in charge of the House now, and we'll have a Democratic president.

How will Democrats controlling Congress now impact the initiatives and the vision and agenda of Joe Biden as you move forward? Is he going to be able to get everything he's proposing passed now because the Democrats control Congress?

Ryan McCollum, Political Consultant, RMC Strategies: No, probably not. But I think they're going to they're going to look and try to get as much done as they can.

Joe Manchin is going to be a household name soon because, you know, just like there's Romneys on the right, there's Joe Manchin on the on the left. And, you know, he doesn't always vote as a Democrat votes. And so -- and it's such a razor thin margin.

So one or two Democrats here, just like a Murkowski or a Collins or a Romney there, can change the makeup of the Senate when it comes to voting. So, you know, this this idea that everybody votes lockstep all the time isn't necessarily true.

And so, with that said, if they don't want to repeat the problems of the past, when when Barack Obama did have a majority in the Senate and the House and didn't get certain things done. Because chances are, you know, it tends it's a pendulum and it swings. So we're not they're not he's not probably not going to have it for all four years, where the Senate and the House are controlled by Democrats. So they're going to try to get the important things done soon.

Ray Hershel: Tony, what are your feelings about the first 100 days in office for Joe Biden? He has indicated he wants to move the COVID vaccines forward at a much, much faster pace, try to get 100 million doses out there in the first 100 days of his office. But what do you think realistic Joe Biden's going to be able to accomplish in his first 100 days in office?

Anthony Cignoli, Political Consultant: I think it's an aggressive first one hundred days, and he's already, as I mentioned earlier, begun the messaging, begun the vernacular on what he wants to do in these 100 days with the speech that he gave on Thursday night. Twenty five minutes of facts. Twenty five minutes of definitive guidelines and timelines and actions as to what he wants to do.

A little bit, reminding me to a degree of Babe Ruth kind of pointing out in the corner as to where he was going to hit that homerun. Does he hit that homerun? I think we're at a point right now we'd be happy with a great double or triple from him.

But he is making it very clear, these first 100 days are as important as FDR's first hundred days. I'm seeing some historical correlation there and thinking, too, from what we've already heard before an inaugural speech, on Thursday of this week from Biden, that it is almost reminiscent of a combination of FDR, JFK and a little bit of Ronald Reagan's inaugural speeches.

We're hearing that, that push that "It's bad. I'm telling you, it's bad and I know it's going to get worse. But we're in this one together. There's hope. Help is coming." I don't think I've heard him say -- say that less than 10 times a day somewhere in America in some media format. That concept that there's hope, that there's help, that is imperative and important. That's great to accomplish that. But more so now, victories in the hundred days that can be pointed to, I think it's going to be possible for him to pull some of this off.

Ray Hershel: And Ryan, what do you look for in the first 100 days of Joe Biden's administration?

Ryan McCollum: I think politically, he's got a great opportunity because we all have a Trump hangover. I mean, it was--it was almost chaos. And so, when we see some things getting done, we're going to be like, "Wow, this is this is what it's like, again, to have a president who who has a steady hand, who is just getting things done, who isn't worried about all these other different distractions?"

And so he has a huge opportunity politically to remind people what life was like pre-Trump. And so he can't squander that goodwill. And so I think like to Tony's analogy, if he hits a double, it's going to seem like a home run to us because we've had what we had last four years.

On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and security will be unlike any in modern American history following last week’s riot and siege at the U.S. Capitol. Biden takes office amidst a turbulent transition from the Trump administration and a COVID-19 pandemic that gets worse by the day.  Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with political consultants Anthony Cignoli and Ryan McCollum for their pe

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“This Is Us” Portraiture Exhibition at Springfield Museums

January 15, 2021

Back in August, Springfield Museums called for the community to submit portraits for an upcoming exhibit. The selected artwork is part of a This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today, currently on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Quadrangle. The collection features 53 pieces of art from artists hailing from the Connecticut River Valley and northern Connecticut. Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser talked with three artis

Back in August, Springfield Museums called for the community to submit portraits for an upcoming exhibit. The selected artwork is part of a This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today, currently on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine

Back in August, Springfield Museums called for the community to submit portraits for an upcoming exhibit. The selected artwork is part of a This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today, currently on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Quadrangle. The collection features 53 pieces of art from artists hailing from the Connecticut River Valley and northern Connecticut. Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser talked with three artis

Back in August, Springfield Museums called for the community to submit portraits for an upcoming exhibit. The selected artwork is part of a This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today, currently on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Quadrangle. 

The collection features 53 pieces of art from artists hailing from the Connecticut River Valley and northern Connecticut. Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser talked with three artists whose work is part of the exhibit, as well as the museum’s curator Maggie North to learn more. 

Read the Full Transcript
 

Maryanne Benns, Sculptor: The first time I put my hands in it, I took a ceramics one class and I knew this was it was like love.

Terry Gibson, Photographer: I think more than ever, art will always be responsible for highlighting our times and kind of marking our times.

Wynne Dromey, Artist: I think starting freshman year of high school, that's when I really became more serious with art. And I start doing it pretty much every single day. And that's when I realized that art was something I really like to do.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Three artists, all with different backgrounds and experiences, joined several others to showcase their artwork in the "This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today" exhibit at the Springfield Quadrangle's D'Amour Art Museum.

Maggie North, Curator, D'amour Museum of Fine Arts: "This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today" was inspired by a larger exhibition, "The Outwin: American Portraiture Today," which is on view at the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts in our Wheeler and Barn Galleries. We thought, why not — while highlighting national portraiture — also highlight the contemporary, regional portraiture right here in western Massachusetts and also in northern Connecticut.

Dave Fraser: Submissions ranged from photography, paintings, sculptures, drawings and more, all focused on similar themes -- human connection, political climates, and social events. Terry Gibson is a self-taught street photographer who lives in Holyoke. He says his work explores the neighborhoods and communities whose residents are predominantly black and brown.

Terry Gibson: I chose the image of a young man that is standing in the center of a crowd and there is a woman's hands across his chest. He's looking on into a demonstration into a speaker. The response that I would like to hear is that folks are aware that young people are in the crowd. And so, that's being mindful of the of the example that you're setting at the protest, right? So, you could be angry and be mad —  and rightly so — but you also have to be aware that there are young people out here that are watching along and this is our future. So that's really what I wanted the image to be about.

Dave Fraser: The open call for portraiture began back in August and the museum received 65 submissions. Twenty-three of the pieces are displayed on the museum walls and the others are featured on a digital slideshow.

Maggie North: This exhibition takes on a special significance today in our time of social distancing, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we thought that portraiture would be a wonderful way, not only to showcase local talent, but to invite our visitors to meet their neighbors and to share stories and come together within this space in order to see unmasked faces. Sometimes we, we can't do that as often as we'd like to these days.

Dave Fraser: Wynne Dromey is a senior at Longmeadow High School. Her acrylic on canvas is a portrait of her friend Sandra, who, according to Dromey, represents the strength and determination within a community.

Wynne Dromey: During quarantine, that's when the Black Lives Matter movement became really prevalent. And my friend Sandra actually started a peaceful protest for the Black Lives movement. And I think that's just kind of made me realize, like, wow, like Sandra is such an incredible, powerful person. And that definitely solidified my plan of someone submitting this portrait for the competition.

Dave Fraser: According to the museum's curator, Maggie North, they did not define portraiture when they posted the open call for this exhibit, hoping instead to let the artist choose how they wanted to define it.

Maggie North: So often when the word portraiture is used, what comes to mind is an image of a person's head and maybe their shoulders. But in fact, a portrait can be so much more than that. It doesn't have to be a painting or a photograph. It can be a sculpture or a watercolor, a mixed media piece, a work that showcases somebody's body or illustrates their story in a different way.

Dave Fraser: In the spring of 2020, when the COVID pandemic forced many businesses to close, Maryanne Benns's found herself alone in her studio in Holyoke. She said she turned inward for inspiration and created this three-dimensional clay piece.

Maryanne Benns: A lot of the work that I do has, I'm going to say, a lot of content. And sometimes it's — it's heavy, but I, I try to make it so that there's a connection, that people can have a connection. Oftentimes people will ask me what this is about. What does this mean? And I like to ask them, “what does it mean to you?” What is it, what's the connection you have to it? If you go and you look at work and you think “oh that blue is pretty” or “that green is pretty,” that's a kind of a connection. But when it when it hits you inside, that that means a lot.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: The exhibit runs through May 2nd of 2021 at the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield.

Back in August, Springfield Museums called for the community to submit portraits for an upcoming exhibit. The selected artwork is part of a This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today, currently on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Quadrangle. The collection features 53 pieces of art from artists hailing from the Connecticut River Valley and northern Connecticut. Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser talked with three artis

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Windsor State Forest Will Reopen in Spring 2021

January 15, 2021

Eleven years ago, in May 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner decided to close Windsor State Forest to the public. Due to budget restraints, Mass DCR was no longer able to use the forest as an employee-operated park.  That changed in 2020, when the organization was able to raise funds to reopen the forest, whose history dates back nearly 100 years. With plans to welcome the public to the park in the sprin

Eleven years ago, in May 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner decided to close Windsor State Forest to the public. Due to budget restraints, Mass DCR was no longer able to use the forest a

Eleven years ago, in May 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner decided to close Windsor State Forest to the public. Due to budget restraints, Mass DCR was no longer able to use the forest as an employee-operated park.  That changed in 2020, when the organization was able to raise funds to reopen the forest, whose history dates back nearly 100 years. With plans to welcome the public to the park in the sprin

Eleven years ago, in May 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner decided to close Windsor State Forest to the public. Due to budget restraints, Mass DCR was no longer able to use the forest as an employee-operated park.  

That changed in 2020, when the organization was able to raise funds to reopen the forest, whose history dates back nearly 100 years. With plans to welcome the public to the park in the spring of 2021, Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan headed to the Berkshires to explore this historic remote nature preserve. 

Read the Full Transcript
 

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: It was 11 years ago in May of 2009, when the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation decided that due to budget restraints, the Windsor State Forest could no longer function as an employee-operated park.

That all changed in 2020, when the organization was able to raise the money needed to reopen the state forest, whose history dates back nearly 100 years. With plans to reopen the facility in the spring of 2021, Connecting Point's, Brian Sullivan headed to this remote nature preserve to take a look.

Brain Sullivan, Connecting Point: There's a place in the Berkshires where this brook and this brook converge with the east branch of the Westfield River. That seems pretty vague, seeing as they could be any number of tributaries out this way. But these waterways in particular reside on two of the more remote properties of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Located on a winding country road in the town of Windsor, Massachusetts, is the roughly 17,500 acre tract of land known as the Windsor State Forest. Stopping by in late October of 2020, we were greeted by these signs while a number of earth-moving vehicles populated the parking lot. When we came back in December of that year, this dumpster and this backhoe were all that remained.

Now, the netting and temporary fences may not be much to look at, but they represent upgrades that have been in the works since the park was shuttered due to the costs of keeping the facility staffed all the way back in 2009.

Raul Silva, Director of Facilities Engineering, Mass DCR: With staffing comes the amenities, the bathrooms, the contact station, the interpretive services, our ability to pick up trash, all of that went away. That's all now coming back with this project.

Brian Sullivan: The good news for visitors who do make it out this way is that the forest itself never closed. Granted, there won't be anyone in the contact station until the work is completed sometime in the spring of 2021. And the same goes for the comfort station of this way. But for those who like me, would like to get out and enjoy getting back to nature, it's not only open to us, there's also plenty to go around.

Mark Jester, Mountain District Manager, Mass DCR: This part of the park runs up. It's a it's a pretty much an uphill hike. There's a number of trails are up in there and it abuts the Trustees of Reservation's property up in back. So we've got miles of wilderness behind us.

Brian Sullivan: We were heading out on what's known as the Steep Bank Brook Trail. So far, it's living up to its name. And while sporting proper footwear and dressing in layers may seem like some of the more obvious things to keep in mind when hiking in the colder months, there are some other things I like to consider when heading out to Woodlands that I've never been to before, regardless of the season.

Whenever I hike a trail for the first time, if given the option, I prefer taking one that has a river that runs alongside it. And I do that for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the river serves as sort of a makeshift compass. So my right on the way up, on my left, on the way down.

And secondly, the view is always awesome. In our experience so far, each season seems to add a different layer of beauty to the landscape.

These are the old bridge abutments at the entrance to the park in December of 2020, and here they are in the fall of that same year. The same might be said for the other property less than a mile up the road from here. Here's how it looked in the October. And then again in December.

And while drivers passing this sign along Route 9 may confuse the name of the site for that of a Berkshire summer concert series, there are those for whom the sound of rushing cascades of water is a symphony.

Mark Jester: That concert goes on year-round. When people talk about Windsor State Forest, they don't call it Windsor State Forest they call it Windsor Jambs because they, that's what they hear, that's what they think about, and that's what they see. But it's a — it's a beautiful natural waterfall that comes down through — races down through the part of it, dumps off into the Westfield River and some of it goes off and down into Pittsfield-Dalton area.

Brian Sullivan: The Jambs may not have the 50 and 60 foot falls like some other areas in the state, but what it does feature are these dramatic, sheer granite walls, some as high as 80 feet hovering over the flowing rapids below. Even though we drove to the falls, there are paths from the main site that visitors can take to get here.

And as it stands now, it won't be long until this 1.5 million dollar project is completed and more visitors will be able to come here, park, hike and recreate in what will then be a fully staffed and functioning state park for the first time in over a decade.

Raul Silva: As of today, December, we're about 85 percent complete. We're going to be back in the spring to finish up that 15 percent and we expect to be reopened to the public next spring, summer and right through the season.

Eleven years ago, in May 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner decided to close Windsor State Forest to the public. Due to budget restraints, Mass DCR was no longer able to use the forest as an employee-operated park.  That changed in 2020, when the organization was able to raise funds to reopen the forest, whose history dates back nearly 100 years. With plans to welcome the public to the park in the sprin

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New Episode Tonight

Friday, January 22, 2021 

Former Springfield Mayor Bob Markel talks about his friendship with President Joe Biden; Springfield’s Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church rebuilds after fire; MLK Family Services’ Ron John on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Quynh’s Funky Flowers brings light in a dark time.  

 

Former Springfield Mayor Bob Markel talks about his friendship with President Biden 

After a contentious election and the siege of the U.S. Capitol Building by supporters of former President Donald Trump, Joseph Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday.

Former Springfield Mayor Robert Markel has been friends with President Biden since high school. Markel joins Ray Hershel to talk about the historic election and his decades-long friendship with President Biden. 

 

And more western Mass stories tonight… 

In the wake of a destructive fire, Pastor Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery and church members share what Springfield’s Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church has meant to the community and how they continue to honor the legacy of Dr. King.

Then, Ronn Johnson of Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services in Springfield reflects on honoring Dr. King’s legacy after this year’s national racial justice protests.

Finally, Meet Quynh Ly (Quynh’s Funky Flowers), a young Amherst native brightening her small corner of the world through folded paper flowers. 

 

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