Meet Our Leadership TEam

Officers

Dennis Powell

President
Freedom Fund Committee co-chair
Bio
Dennis L. Powell (Retired) was born and raised in Pittsfield, MA.; graduate of the class of 1963 from Pittsfield High School. I am the proud father of five and grandfather of four!

I am a community activist, the president of the Berkshire County Branch NAACP since 2015, and Chair of the Freedom Fund Committee, an Executive Committee member of the New England Area Conference (NEAC) NAACP, and I serve on its Education Committee. I am vice-chair of the Clinton Church Restoration Project. I serve on the Pittsfield Licensing Board, the Pittsfield School Committee, the Pittsfield 4 Freedom Coalition, the Greylock Community Development Advisory Board, the Railroad Street Youth Project Board (RSYP) in Great Barrington, the Steering Committee of the WEB. Du Bois Educational Series also in Great Barrington.

I am a veteran of the United States Army, completing my tour of duty in 1966. I am a graduate of the class of 1968 from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). And from 1972 – 1986, I held positions of instructor and administrator at the CIA. 1987 – 1990 Chef-owner, Wendell House Bistro Pittsfield, MA; 1997 – 1999 Executive Director, Christian Center, Pittsfield, Ma.; 1990 – 2000 Chef-owner Catering By Design; 2000 – 2003 Food Service Manager BSO, Boston Ma.; 2003 – 2010 Director of Food Service/Culinary/Hospitality – Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth, Canaan, NY.

The Berkshire Eagle feature me in their Executive Spotlight Series in 2020. Berkshire Magazine recognized me as one of “Berkshire 25” (Most Dedicated, Most Creative, Most Influential person of 2018. In the 1990s, I received Berkshire Center for Families and Children’s – Outstanding Volunteer Award; and was named by the South Advocate as Pittsfield’s M.V.P (Most Valuable Person). 1977 I was a Culinary Team member. We won five (5) Gold Medals at an International Culinary Competition in Basel Switzerland; and received the Diploma of Honor from the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique; in 1973, received the Culinary Teachers Association – Recognition Award.

I am MAPP Certified – (Massachusetts Approach To Partnerships In Parenting)

Sabrina Allard

Vice-President
Bio
Sabrina (she/her) graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2000 with a BA in Psychology. Currently, she is the Deputy Director at Railroad Street Youth Project.

Originally from Teaneck, NJ, she spent her early childhood years in South County growing up in North Egremont, later residing in all 4 corners of CT over the span of 25 years. She returned to her Berkshire roots with her family in 2013. She is the mother of two amazing middle schoolers.

Early in her career she worked St. Francis Behavioral Health as a mental health worker in the adolescent and schizophrenic units, moving into social work as a family health advocate for CT’s H.U.S.K.Y insurance program. Sabrina continued her career in the insurance industry spending 8 years with Liberty Mutual in sales and sales management, managing 3 offices in Fairfield County, CT, earning multiple Pacesetter awards, the Lamplighter award and an LUTCF designation.

In 2010, Sabrina left Liberty Mutual to start her own fashion styling business, Sabrina Allard, Inc. along with running a homebased business in renewable energy with Viridian Energy for 6 years. There she served as Chairwoman of the Associate Sustainability Council organizing local beach and park cleanups with her team along the east coast. Her work in renewable energy and sustainability allowed the opportunity to help build an international library in Ghana, Africa and a water accessibility/solar panel project in West Java, Indonesia. 

Upon moving to the Berkshires, Sabrina pivoted from the corporate/business world to continue work in social services and pursue her artistic passions. She spent her first two years back in the Berkshires getting to know the south county community as a server at local restaurant, Prairie Whale. In 2016 Sabrina started work with Railroad Street Youth Project serving as the Mentor Coordinator. In 2017, she became the Director of Empowerment and in 2020, the Deputy Director.

In 2020, the Berkshire Eagle recognized Sabrina as one of the “next generation” change makers for International Women’s Day and she received the Berkshire Nonprofit’s Unsung Hero award. Sabrina is a committee member for the Clinton Church Restoration Project and member Pittsfield Moves, a community project through Jacob’s Pillow. You can find her being a hermit at home, where she paints, writes poetry, sings and creates improv & choreographed dance pieces.

Marc Coleman

Treasurer
Bio
Marc is a graduate of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University with degrees in finance and supply chain management. He recently relocated to the Berkshires from his hometown of Camden, NJ. While at Syracuse, Marc was a member of the varsity football team and was selected to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team, and was a member of the fall Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.

Marc works for a wealth management firm in Pittsfield, Park Square Financial Advisors of Raymond James and Associates. In addition to the Series 7 Securities license, Marc holds the Series 6, 63, and 65 licenses and is a licensed Life, Accident, and Health agent.

He is an active alumnus of the Dulye leadership Experience based in the Berkshires, and he earned finalist selection to the program’s prestigious annual retreat for four consecutive years.

In his free time, he enjoys hiking, reading, and watching football. His favorite quote is by Kenneth Chenault, one of the first African Americans to become the chief executive officer (CEO) of a Fortune 500 firm, “Many people don’t focus enough on execution. If you commit to getting something done, you
need to follow through on that commitment.”

Other Executive Committee Members

Al Blake

Political Action Committee co-chair
Bio
Al Blake is a retired resident of Becket. He moved to the Berkshires in 2011 from NJ where he and Tommie Hutto-Blake raised their two daughters. Since living here he is on the town Planning and Zoning Board as well as chair of the Energy Committee. Also, Al is active in local and state politics, a member of 350ma-Berkshires, Multicultural Bridge, UUMSB, former co-chair of the NAACP branch Environmental and Climate Justice and current co-chair of Political Action Committee.

Raei Bridges

Environmental and Climate Justice Committee co-chair
Bio
Raei Bridges (he/him or they/them) is an outdoor educator, youth mentor, and wilderness first responder. Founder of The Rusty Anvil, Raei’s mission is to provide a safe space for BIPOC & LGBTQ+ folks to experience the outdoors and learn more about the natural environment. He enjoys taking leisurely backpacking trips and adventuring with his pup Rex, leather craft, and wildlife tracking.

In addition to serving as co-chair of the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, Raei works with 18 Degrees Pittsfield supporting LGBTQ+ youth and is currently a wilderness instructor intern with Flying Deer Nature Center. Self identifying as a tree, Raei’s dream is to escape into the forest, root, and live there forever with other woodland beings.

Toni Buckley

Freedom Fund Committee co-chair
Bio
Toni Buckley was born and raised in Germany by two Syrian parents. She decided in 2015 to
drastically change her personal and professional life after running her own photography business in Germany for more than ten years (2007-present).

Shortly after moving to the U.S. for love, she started coordinating the Berkshire Immigrant Stories Project (2017-present), organizing programming for and with our Berkshire Immigrant Community as well as collecting
their moving stories.

Around the same time Toni coordinated, planned, and executed the Road Scholar Program in the Berkshires (2018) for one whole season before starting her new fulltime position at Berkshire Community College as the Director of Alumni Relations (2018-present), now sharing the powerful stories of BCC alumni and how accessible education has changed and bettered their lives.

Toni sees herself as an artistic activist. She co-founded the Hoping Machine (2017) at the
Guthrie Center, a group of activists and songwriters working to foster social justice through the power of music and storytelling; she serves as a steering committee member of the Four Freedoms Coalition (2018-present); a member of the Board of Directors of WAM Theatre (2020-present); served on the Pittsfield Human Rights Commission (2018-2019); is a member of the MASS MoCA Community Advisory Network (2019-present); represents the Immigrant Community on the Impact Council of Berkshire Leadership (2018-present); is a member of Pittsfield Moves by Jacob’s Pillow (2018-present); and a recent 40 Under Forty award recipient.

She holds a Master’s in Communication Design and is approaching another MA in Management of Nonprofits and Cultural Organizations.

Toni is very grateful to have found home, happiness and a strong community in the Berkshires. The seemingly most unlikely place to end up for a Syrian, who was born and raised in the Rhineland in Germany, now planning her future and starting a family with her husband in the beautiful Berkshire hills.

Christina Daignault

Legal Redress Committee co-chair
Bio
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Christina grew up on the South shore and moved to Adams, Massachusetts in Northern berkshires eighteen years ago where she still resides. Christina is the mother of four children and two stepchildren and soon to be grandmother. She is a licensed clinical therapist and works as a therapist in North county primarily serving BIPOC, TRA, and adoptees.

Christina herself is a domestic, multiracial, transracial adoptee who believes strongly in family preservation and dismantling our current adoption and child welfare systems that are steeped in racism and classism. Christina has served on different boards and committees through out berkshire County. She also works with Finca Luna Buho, a local farm in Cheshire which works tirelessly to provide space for BIPOC, immigrant, queer, and adoptee communities.

Jerome Edgerton, Jr.

At Large Member
Bio
Jerome Edgerton Jr. is a community activist, writer, musician and motivational speaker and founder of Sessions Life Skills Mentoring program for young men. In 2012 he was awarded the first Tupelo award from Berkshire Taconic Foundation. Besides researching and expanding his knowledge in African Drumming he wrote a well-received production entitled the ” Evolution of Rhythms”, a musical teaching the history of beats. As the Musical Director of Youth Alive he developed the drumline into a band that plays original, popular tunes and transforms to a marching band during parade season.

Jerome is not only a creative genius in the arts but he was inducted into the New England Regional Basketball Hall of Fame for his prowess and athletic abilities on the court as a high school player in August 2015. He attended Nichols and Livingstone Colleges where he played Varsity basketball. Last, but not least Jerome is a minister at New Generation Global Ministry. His passion is to share his talents, experiences and insights with youth.

Shirley Edgerton

Education Committee co-chair
At Large Member
Bio
Shirley Edgerton is a community activist, educator and visionary. As the Cultural Proficiency Coach for Pittsfield public schools she facilitates training in Cultural Competency, initiates cross cultural projects in collaboration with students,educators and community partners.

In 2015 after 21 years of employment she retired from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services as the Director of the Berkshire Service Group. She currently serves on 18 Degrees Human Services Agency board, City of Pittsfield Preservation Committee and other task forces.

Shirley is the founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle of the Berkshires and The Rites of Passage and Empowerment program. The mission of R.O.P.E. is to celebrate and honor the entry of adolescent girls into womanhood and provide them with skills and knowledge that they need to be successful, independent and responsible women! It is designed to help them discover their voice and support all components of personal development. Two primary projects of R.O.P.E are college tours locally, in neighboring states and to Historical Black College and Universities. The second are international service learning projects in South and West Africa.

Shirley Edgerton earned a M.Ed from MCLA in 2004 and has been recognized for her community work with an honorary Doctorate of Humanity from The College of Our Lady of the Elms, May 2017 and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, 2018.

A.J. Enchill, Jr.

Economic Development and Justice Committee chair
At Large Member
Bio
Born to immigrants from Ghana, A.J. is a native son of Pittsfield and the eldest of four brothers. Living in Pittsfield A.J. attended Sacred Heart, St. Marks School, Reid Middle School, and Taconic High School. In 2009, he transferred to The Governor’s Academy where he became a dorm proctor and lacrosse captain. A.J. is a Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) scholar and a 2016 graduate of Tufts University with a B.A. in American Studies. In his senior year, he gained his first constituent services experience as an intern for U.S. Congresswoman Katherine Clark. 

Since 2017 A.J. has performed constituent services and community outreach as the District Aide for State Senator Adam G. Hinds. He was formerly the board co-chair for Multicultural BRIDGE. He is a board member of Berkshire Community Action Council and Community Health Programs.  

A.J. has returned home with the goal to impact his community in a way that inspires young folks to return to the Berkshires to strengthen the place that raised them. A.J. and his wife Grace look forward to raising their family in the Berkshires. 

Linda Evans

Education Committee co-chair
Bio
Linda is an experienced, dedicated, and eager educator with over 20 years of field experience. Most recently, serving as an Academic Support Teacher in the Pittsfield Public Schools District. Also, designed and facilitated interventions for students performing below grade level in the area of reading. Strategically managed the administration of the Read 180 program at the high school level, as well as implementing MCAS interventions with a focus on reading comprehension and writing. She offers a proven track record of commended performance in teaching all students, a passion for education, and a commitment to optimizing student and school success.

KEY CONTRIBUTIONS Continually earns high marks for the quality of classroom teaching, lesson plans, and instructional materials used in teaching diverse subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies, history, life skills, and vocational skills), to a diverse population of students. Consistently commended for ability to redirect students by replacing disruptive, unproductive patterns with positive, productive behavior patterns.

EDUCATION: FITCHBURG STATE UNIVERSITY, FITCHBURG, MA —CAGS JANUARY 2014 – MAY 2016,
Interdisciplinary Studies – Special Education and Reading, 2012-2016
AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE, SPRINGFIELD, MA — M. ED JANUARY 2008 – MAY 2010
School Administration, 2010 Principal/ Assistant
Principal Certification (Grades 9-12) Administrative
Practicum, 2010- Monument Mountain High School

Antony Haynes

Legal Redress Committee co-chair
Bio
Antony  joined Albany Law School in December 2015. He has extensive litigation experience in the intellectual property, securities, and criminal defense areas.   He served as an associate at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, in Washington, D.C., and before that at Williams & Connolly LLP, in Washington, D.C.Prior to practicing law, Antony was an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he taught courses in programming, developed the Academy’s Information Assurance curriculum, and created the intercollegiate Cyber Defense Exercise.  He has extensive experience with a host of software and hardware technologies, including Cisco routers, Motorola microprocessors, TCP/IP networking protocols, SQL databases, and web-based programming.  He developed an on-line survey-system for the Department of Epidemiology at a major university.  After the Air Force Academy he was an associate at Chatham Financial Corporation, Capital Markets, Kennett Square, Pa., where he led a company-wide software effort, wrote financial software and coordinated technical developers.

He is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was recognized as the top computer science graduate.  He received his M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, where his thesis focused on machine learning and expert systems. He is an entrepreneur who leverages his background in computer science, technology, business and the law to advise startup companies.  In addition to advising startups, he has spent time acquiring and growing companies. 

Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed

Education Committee co-chair
Bio
Frances is a professor emeritus of history (Ph.D., University of Missouri) and former Director of Women Studies at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts. She teaches local history, African American history, and women’s history. She directed three National Endowment for the Humanities grants and spearheaded a national conference on African American Biography. She is co-director of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, a former board member of Mass Humanities, and is presently a member of the Samuel Harrison Society and the Clinton Church Restoration project. She was an NEH Summer Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and is currently working on a monograph about W.E.B. Du Bois and editing the autobiography of the Rev. Samuel Harrison. 

Brandon Maurer

Political Action Committee co-chair
Bio
Brandon is a lifetime Pittsfield resident and Head Coach of the Pittsfield High School Boys Varsity Basketball team and has been coaching in the program for 11 years. He has stayed active in his community since his teens, ranging from basketball camps and clinics to a Pittsfield Police Officer and even further as a Berkshire State Police Detective of Major Crimes. Since his retirement from the State Police, he has joined the Barrington Stage Company’s Community Advisory Board and is a member of the philanthropy organization Berkshire Unity Through Community. Brandon wishes to help advance the mission of the NAACP through hard work and providing his unique perspective as one of the few retired black police officers that have served this community.

Kelan O’Brien

Communication, Press, and Publicity Committee chair
Bio
Kelan (he/him) is an Alumni Fund Development Officer at Williams College who was born and raised in the Berkshires. Since returning after college, he has become involved with several community groups and organziations including Berkshire Pride, Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention, Elizabeth Freeman Center, and Invest in Pittsfield as well as several local political campaigns. He has also taught spin classes at Berkshire Nautilus.

Joel Priest

Race Relations Committee co-chair
Bio
I’ve lived in the Berkshires since 2008 and been a member of our Branch since 2016. My wife and two teenage sons and I live at the Darrow School, where I’m the Chair of the Mathematics Department and Director of Outdoor Education. I have worked in the overlapping fields of secondary and wilderness education for over 35 years. I am also the co-coordinator of Diversity at Darrow for the past 8 years and have planned and led numerous community programs around identity, privilege, oppression and justice. This includes co-teaching an interdisciplinary elective for juniors and seniors called Race: Reality and Fiction. My work at NAACP centers on two areas: 1) creating and leading educational programs for both our membership and the wider Berkshire community and 2) coordinating communications for the members of the Redress and Race Relations Committee. Other areas of justice work that I support include programs that promote outdoor recreation or environmental education for People of Color, and programs that promote food sovereignty and land reparations for African American farmers.

Rebecca Thompson

At Large member
Website Manager
Bio
Rebecca has degrees in History, Teaching and Librarianship. She taught in elementary schools from 1968-1972 in Chicago (briefly), Philadelphia (PA) and Canton (OH). After becoming a librarian she worked in various positions in Oregon, Indiana, and New York, retiring in 2009 as the Director of Libraries at SUNY Potsdam. In 2014 she and husband re-located to Pittsfield. She joined the NAACP in 2017 and became active when she volunteered to manage the Branch website in 2019. She developed and participates in the Branch’s White Learning Circle.

Jane Winn

Environmental and Climate Justice Committee co-chair
Bio
Jane is executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT). Having grown up in Pittsfield on the banks of the then, extremely polluted Housatonic River, Jane is a passionate environmental advocate, leading river, park and street cleanups, working to ensure environmental laws are enforced, and advocating for better laws to protect the environment and marginalized communities from pollution. Jane can be reached at jwinn2@berkshire.rr.com or 413-230-7321.