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Top Left Corner

TLC #76: Global Climate Strike and Jamie Margolin on the climate crisis

In this episode, we speak to Williamstown residents Anne O’Connor and Molly Polk, who assisted local youths in preparing signs to display during the Global Climate Strike actions Friday, September 20. The event in Williamstown begins at 4:00 p.m. in front of the First Congregational Church.

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TLC #75: DA Harrington discusses new juvenile justice initiative

Berkshire County Courthouse, photo by Alexius Horatius; [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.
Berkshire County Courthouse, Pittsfield, Mass., photo by AlexiusHoratius; [ CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

A report on The System

Harrington says “tough on crime” compatible with justice reform.

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TLC #74 — DJ Oli Real on Summerfest Talent Show

DJ Oli Real; photo courtesy Oli Real
DJ Oli Real; photo courtesy Oli Real

A Westside Legends Community Event

We spoke this week with DJ Oli Real about the first ever Summerfest Talent Show taking place at Pittsfield’s Durant Park on August 18 from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. This community event is family friendly and hope to amuse, entertain, and showcase some of the best sides of West Side.

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Mighty Thunders and Borrowed Light open 2019 season at Hancock Shaker Village

Barbara Ernst Prey, School Room, 2019, watercolor on paper; [source Hancock Shaker Village].
Barbara Ernst Prey, School Room, 2019, watercolor on paper; [source Hancock Shaker Village].

by Jason Velázquez

This is the Top Left Corner. Today is Saturday, May 25, and you’re listening to episode #72. I’m your host, Jason Velazquez, and as always, thank you for tuning in. We have a huge show for you this week. We start off with a short hop over to Lenox where we check in with Shakespeare & Company, whose 2019 season kicks off with the Wavery Gallery. Then we spend the remainder of our show at Hancock Shaker Village, which begins its season with the opening of two major installations, Borrowed Light: Barbara Ernst Prey, and While Mighty Thunders Roll: Popular Artists Sing the Shakers, produced by Jeffrey Gaskill. We’ll finish up with some key segments of my conversation with Matt Lorenz known by his one-man band — The Suitcase Junket. Oh, and we’ve got some boss tracks from his new album to share with you, too.

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Berkshire County legal system comes under the gaze of court watchers

Berkshire County Courthouse, photo by Alexius Horatius; [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.
Berkshire County Courthouse, Pittsfield, Mass., photo by AlexiusHoratius; [ CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

by Jason Velázquez

The public has had a fascination with justice, or at least the meting out of punishment, since at least as early as the Middle Ages. Gathering some rotten produce and taking the kids down to the local stocks, gallows, or executioner’s block is a sure way to turn any Saturday morning into memorable family time.

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TLC #68: 2020 Regional Transportation Plan

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Sunday, October 28, 2018 and you’re listening to TLC episode #68. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, thanks so much for tuning in.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is soliciting public comment on the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan until November 1; photo courtesy BRPC.
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is soliciting public comment on the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan until November 1; photo courtesy BRPC.
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TLC #67: A hot property, office of the Northern Berkshire Register of Deeds surveyed by two candidates

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Tuesday, October 23, and you’re listening to TLC episode #67. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, thanks so much for tuning in. On this week’s show, we explore the topic of the Registry of Deeds.

Deborah Moran, right, and Maria Ziemba, both staff members at the Northern Berkshire Registry of Deeds, vie for the top spot of Register Nov. 6; photos courtesy the candidates.

Unless you’re a real estate agent or a tax assessor, this government office is often overlooked until two neighbors have a property line dispute. And, although much of the focus on the elections next month centers around more high profile local or Congressional seats, the top position of Register of the Deeds is up for grabs every six years. Here in Greylock Nation, Berkshire County is divided up into North, Middle, and South Registries, each with their own staffs and head Registers.

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TLC #66: Bodies & Minds, Books, and the Blues

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Thursday, August 30, and you’re listening to TLC episode #66. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, thanks so much for tuning in. We’ll be talking about bodies, minds, books, and the Blues this show, and hearing some great tunes besides.

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TLC #65: INTERVIEW — Tahirah Amatul-Wadud

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.

Congressional Democratic primary challenger to 15-term Richard Neal

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud; submitted photo.

Hey, Greylock Nation, today is Thursday, August 21, and you’re listening to TLC episode #65. I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and, as always, I’m grateful to have you here with me.

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TLC #64: Hay Day — brand new old-fashioned fair in Williamstown

SOooo good to be back behind the mic. I won’t get all TL;DR here, since the show itself is an hour and a quarter (I got carried away in my enthusiasm…). I do want to provide you with the promised links to Hay Day, Rise for Climate, and Hemp—An Amazing Plant, though, so do read on.

Putting up the loose hay for winter, year unknown; photo courtesy Williamstown Historical Museum. Hay Day celebrates the town's agricultural heritage.
Putting up the loose hay for winter, year unknown; photo courtesy Williamstown Historical Museum.
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TLC #63—We catch up, then cross the line to cover the Poor People’s Campaign

Lt. Gov. candidate Quentin Palfrey, poet Clarrisa Sacherski, Northeast Fiddlers’ Convention, mystery author Chris Wondoloski, The Poor People’s Campaign

Welcome, Greylock Nation, to episode #63 of the Top Left Corner here at the Greylock Glass. We’ll hear more from Carrisa later in the show, and if you behave, I’ll even treat you to one of her recent poems she was kind enough to record and share with us.

A no-foolin'-around sized force of City of Albany and New York State Capitol police was on hand at the June 4 Poor People's Campaign event. Some twenty-seven arrests were made for trespassing and disturbing the peace; photo by Jason Velázquez.
A no-foolin’-around sized force of City of Albany and New York State Capitol police was on hand at the June 4 Poor People’s Campaign event. Some twenty-seven arrests were made for trespassing and disturbing the peace; photo by Jason Velázquez.

We have a pretty sizable show for you this week. Guests include candidate for Lt. Governor, Quentin Palfrey, Poetess Carissa Sacherski, author Chris Wondoloski, organizer of the first ever Northeast Fiddlers’ Convention Jim Wright, AND special coverage of the June 4 Poor People’s Campaign rally and action in Albany, including speaking with North County activists Sam Smith and Reverend Mark Longhurst, Poor People’s Campaign- NY organizer Barbara Smith, and Vocal-NY staff member G.G. Morgan. Keep Reading

TLC #62 — Remembering the Women’s March: Voices from the Road

Hey Greylock Nation—

Today is Tuesday, January 16, 2018, and you’re listening to episode 62 of the Top Left Corner. I’m your host, Jay Velazquez, and, as always, I thank you for tuning in.

All photos by Jason Velázquez.
All photos by Jason Velázquez.

We’re coming up this week on the first anniversary of the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, with half a million attendees showing up for the flagship event in Washington D.C., approximately 4 million participating in events around the country, and well over 5 million demonstrators world-wide.

Although I haven’t talked much about it, I was fortunate, more than fortunate actually, to attend the Women’s March on Washington. At the last minute Meghan Whilden, Executive Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, contacted me to let me know about an empty seat on one of several busses heading to the Capitol from Western Massachusetts. She wanted to send me down as one of the Berkshires’ own journalists on location at one of the most profound and powerful experiences on American soil of the 21st Century. My bus left from Northampton, Mass about 1:30 a.m. packed primarily with women from the Pioneer Valley, but also a good share of Berkshire residents. The buses leaving out of Pittsfield had all left earlier the evening before.

Our bus arrived and parked in the lot of a stadium outside of the Capitol, and, keeping close to my Berkshires contingent, I made my way toward the National Mall, interviewing people along the way. Long before I saw the columns of the Supreme Court or any of the monuments, I knew that I’d been captured by history and marked in a way that would be almost painful for its permanence.

I reported via Facebook LIVE video and through live audio broadcasts using the Mixlr Internet radio service. I posted photos and text updates until first the cellular service in D.C. got completely clogged, or intentionally disabled—we never found out— and then eventually my phone’s battery ran dry, and I had no way to charge it without finding my way through a rolling pink sea of determination.

On the trip back to Western Mass, I tried to piece together some way to tell a story that was weightier and more expansive than I’d ever been tasked to convey. Harder still was knowing what to do with the strange distance I felt between myself as a man and a reporter at the scene and the women who were returning as victorious participants. There were so many women who’d attended not just the March on Washington, but also the sister events in the Berkshires and beyond, who had their stories and experiences to share as women with other women. Who was I to show up at their campfire and ask to be passed the talking stick? And with such really excellent coverage by so many distinguished national journalists, I couldn’t see what contribution I might make.

I spent a good amount of time on both the way down and the way back talking with Emily Cutts, staff writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I meant to ask her what it felt like to be a female journalist covering the story, and whether she felt she needed to try to keep a level of professional detachment from the events. I don’t know how any reporter, man or woman, could have kept their heart behind a fence, to be honest.

But I never got to ask her. The bus stopped moving about 40 minutes south of Northampton and wouldn’t budge again. In a flurry of calls to family and frenzied tapping on Uber, the women and men who shared such powerful solidarity for the last 24 hours made their separate ways out into the pre-dawn darkness and frost. My lot, and that of my traveling companion, was looking more and more dire as Uber drivers started running out, and I couldn’t get my phone to install the damn app anyway. In an act of selflessness and generosity, charity really at that hour of the morning, my newly met colleague gave up her seat so that we could make it back to Northampton. She ended up waiting over an hour in the cold until a friend was able to get there and shuttle her back to Paradise City. Thank you. Thank you again, Emily Cutts. Your strength, exhibited through kindness and self-sacrifice was so…feminine.

It didn’t take me long, sitting starting at the empty white screen of my computer, to realize that what Megan Whilden had done, intended or not, was not to dispatch me to the nation’s capitol to go get that story, but to send me there so that the devastating 24-hour transformation I underwent would inform my decisions on what topics I would cover and how I would cover them from that point on. If it seemed to you that the reporting coming out of the Greylock Glass was steeped in estrogen in 2017, well now you know why.

I looked for stories not just about women in the Berkshires, but about how those women, through their own work and lives, reflected the growing realization that America was about to reckon with a women’s movement that was gaining in power, momentum, and political sophistication. The country would begin to come to terms with gender inequities and injustice not because it was convenient at the moment, but because women had decided they were done with gradualism.

The Greylock Glass reported on many, many women achieving amazing things in education, literature, music, politics, and other areas. When searching for a source to talk to about a subject that wasn’t inherently masculine or feminine, I challenged myself to be sure to contact a woman with equal expertise or credentials if no reason existed not to feature a feminine voice. Finally, just as important to me as including women’s voices in our reporting was committing to give time to stories about issues that may have a veneer of gender neutrality, but which, in fact, affect women disproportionately, and often with strikingly unjust consequences.

What did I learn pursuing this slight editorial tweaking in 2017 was that including women more often in news coverage, as vital actors on the many diverse stages of human experience, as agents of their own fortunes and as agents of change in their communities? I learned that it’s really no professional challenge. It’s just a personal habit. Plenty of men made appearances in our podcasts and in our pages last year, too—when it made sense, in the interest of the informing the audience, to talk with them. But never as the default gender. And while I haven’t analyzed stories and podcasts from 2015 or 2016 to see if last year rectified a gender disparity of which I wasn’t aware, I don’t think I have to at this point. And I don’t think I’m going to have to make any special effort in 2018 to ensure journalistic gender equity. If, as I hope, I’m in a position to hire a reporter this year, I’ll be looking forward to nurturing the habits of awareness in her or in him that took root for me, and for the world, during the first Women’s March on January 21, 2017.

Although I never did come up with a satisfactory way to chronicle my trip to Washington, I did return home with a couple hours-worth of audio interviews. I’ve sifted through those conversations and pulled out a small collection of my favorite quotes. Except for the voice of Kamala Harris at the end, the speakers are going to remain nameless, though some of you will, doubtless, recognize one or two of the women I spoke with. So now, I’d like to share with you, as a small way the Greylock Glass can commemorate that historic demonstration, Ten Minutes of Voices on the Road to the Women’s March on Washington.

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