The Town of Bernardston, on Monday, June 18th, moved from the No column to the Yes column of towns and cities in Massachusetts that have voted on resolutions in support of changing our state flag and seal.
After Bernarston voted NO at annual town meeting on May 8th, the Yes voters – who were too rattled by the loud chorus of Nays to challenge the moderator’s call and ask for a standing vote of the room – decided to try to gather 100 signatures in time to place the resolution back on the warrant for a special town meeting in June.
In June, the school budget was scheduled to be voted on. Supporters expected more young parents to be in the room at the June meeting. They hoped the younger parents would counterbalance a mostly older crowd of disgruntled taxpayers who were mad about a five year contract being handed to a new, untested superintendent. It was this contingent that had voted as a block to defeat the resolution in May.
The town clerk advised the Yes voters that they would have just one week to gather 100 signatures – a tough haul in a conservative town where most people work during the week and there are few public events where it would be easy to gather signatures.
But supporters stood at the transfer station on a Saturday morning, attended a concert on the lawn behind the library, approached and were turned away from a volunteer firefighter’s training session, gathered signatures at a book sale at the elementary school, and went door to door in all neighborhoods to meet the deadline.
On the last day before the warrant was closed, we had gathered 102 valid signatures of registered voters in Bernardston!
With the signatures in hand, the resolution was placed back on the warrant, and on June 17th, after two hours of heated debate on the school budget, with more than 100 people still in the room at 9:15 pm – supporters got up to speak to the last article – whether to support H.2776 / S.1877 – to establish a special commission to change the Massachusetts flag and seal.
Sheila Damkoehler explained why the resolution was being voted on a second time, how the Yes voters felt it had not been given adequate consideration at the first meeting; the vote had been taken so fast.
Sometimes things happen quickly at town meeting. Before people realize it the vote has gone down.
This time, voters listened intently as documentary filmmaker Rawn Fulton read a speech by state senator Jo Comerford, one the chief sponsors of the legislation to change the flag and seal. She urged the voters of Bernardston to reconsider and join the 20 other towns in her 24-town district that had already voted for the change.
Rawn also spoke on behalf of his ancestor – Myles Standish – whose broadsword is depicted poised above a Native man’s head on our flag and seal. He urged town meeting members to vote for the resolution to establish a special commission to change this racist image.
By an overwhelming voice vote, that’s what the voters of Bernardston did.
Thanks to all who helped make this happen. There are now 39 cities and towns on record supporting a change to the Massachusetts Flag and Seal. To get you town or city to consider a resolution to change the flag and seal – contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-863-9296.
We are in the initial stages of planning a cross the Commonwealth bicycle tour to support a change to the flag and seal in the third week of August – please get in touch if you are interested in riding with us.
We are still trying to find out how to update the graphics on this website – particularly the town meeting map, now that the site administrator has departed. Forgive the long delay, we hope to update the map soon. But for now, here is the list of town and cities supporting a change to the state flag and seal:
Amherst, Ashfield, Bernardston, Brewster, Brookline, Buckland (unanimous), Cambridge (unanimous), Charlemont, Chatham, Colrain, Conway, Cummington, Eastham, Erving, Gill, Greenfield (unanimous), Hadley, Heath, Leverett, Leyden, Lincoln, (first in Middlesex County) Montague, New Salem, Northampton (unanimous), Northfield, Orange, Orleans, Pelham (unanimous) Plainfield (unanimous), Provincetown (unanimous), Rowe, Royalston, (first in Worcester County to approve the resolution), Shelburne, Shutesbury (unanimous), Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell (unanimous), and Whately, Windsor – first in Berkshire County to approve changing the flag and seal of Massachusetts!