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AMHERST — On the eve of Juneteenth, internationally -renowned Millner Anika Lopes of Amherst and Brooklyn, N.Y., has announced that she is founder and president of Ancestral Bridges, a 501c3 foundation that collaboratively brings together stakeholders in order to elevate economic and cultural opportunities and build a more equitable future for regional Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC).

Founding collaborator and foundation Vice President Cinda Jones’ ancestors were colonial settlers of Hatfield and then Amherst. “We can’t change history, but we can impact the future,” she said. “We’re working together to assure that indigenous culture is reclaimed, family stories are told. and economic and home ownership opportunities are created for area BIPOC. I’m proud to be endeavoring this with Anika Lopes.”

Named for Anika Lopes’ maternal ancestors and grandfather Dudley Bridges, Ancestral Bridges represents and celebrates the stores of the area’s first Black and Afro- indigenous families through interpretive walks and historic markers, cultural events and exhibits, internship opportunities, wealth- generation education, and first-time home-ownership initiatives.

Ancestral Bridges’ first endeavor is launching on Juneteenth 2022 an interactive black history walk of here-to-fore unremarked historic sites of Amherst’s first Black and indigenous families. Some of the Bridges family’s rare collection of photographs will be shared for the first time.

Ancestral Bridges Foundation’s collection of indigenous tools and arrowheads will be on display at the Amherst History Museum. The Saturday, June 18 program will begin at 11 a.m. at Amherst’s West Cemetery, where the Ancestral Bridges Foundation’s creation will be announced. The program moves on to the Emily Dickinson Homestead at noon; The Amherst History Museum at 1 p.m.; with tours of black neighborhood landmarks to follow. A 5 p.m. concert at the Drake closes the program.

“African Americans, Indigenous people, and other BIPOC community members have been systemically denied wealth generation opportunities such as home and land ownership, college scholarships, and financial investments,” said Lopes, a sixth-generation resident of what’s now called Amherst. “As a direct result of lacking generational wealth, BIPOC youth today are often disadvantaged in school, getting into college, starting businesses, and owning property. We’re going to evolve the future potential of BIPOC in the Amherst area.”

Joining Lopes and Jones on the Ancestral Bridges Foundation board are; Willian Harris of Space Center Houston; Kamal Ali, professor; Attorney Michael Pill; Deputy Police Chief Gabriel Ting; Shirley Jackson Whitaker; Amherst High School Principal Talib Sadiq; and education reformer Sucharitha Cintron. Former state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Donald Brown will join in an advisory capacity.

For more information about Ancestral Bridges and to find out how to support its start-up, visit www.ancestral-bridges.org.

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