Around Amherst: Event welcomes Year of the Dragon

Brianna McBride and Billy McBride meet with Wildwood Elementary School students at the 11th annual African American Read-In Assembly on Feb. 2.

Brianna McBride and Billy McBride meet with Wildwood Elementary School students at the 11th annual African American Read-In Assembly on Feb. 2. CONTRIBUTED


Staff Writer

Published: 02-15-2024 8:29 PM

AMHERST — A year after 300 people came out to celebrate the Lunar New Year at Spring Festival with music, dance and food, a similar event to commemorate 2024 — the Year of the Dragon — takes place Saturday.

The get-together, running from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Amherst Regional Middle School, 170 Chestnut St., being hosted by the Human Rights Commission and Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will begin with a presentation by Lily Soh discussing the origin and traditions of Spring Festival.

The dragon dance and other traditional dances and songs will be performed by East Culture Inc. beginning at 11:15 a.m., then, at noon, members of the Town Council will read a proclamation associated with the event. The observance winds down with a lunch provided by local restaurants.

The event is free and open to the public, though registration is suggested. To sign up, go to

Black Business Association-related events

Entrepreneurs from the Black Business Association of Amherst Area will speak as part of a panel discussion presented online by the League of Women Voters on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Babatunde Ajao, founder of True Given, Monica Cage, owner of Crowned by Cage, and Alysia Bryan, owner of Carefree Cakery, will discuss the ways the business organization has helped their businesses survive and thrive. The Black Business Association of Amherst Area was founded in 2016, offers assistance to its members to develop and grow their businesses.

The conversation is part of the Amherst League’s Racial Justice Conversation Series, which honors longtime local educator and civic leader Judy Harris Brooks.

To watch the event, go to

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Then, on Feb. 23, the “Still We Rise: Black Celebration Series,” part of a Black history lecture and slide show presentation, takes place at White Lion Brewery, 24 North Pleasant St., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with poetry, vocals and instrumentals as part of an open mic. The Black Business Association and Sankofa Gumbo are sponsors.

African American Read-In Assembly

Wildwood Elementary School recently celebrated its 11th annual African American Read-In Assembly, with guests including Billy McBride, Amherst College’s associate director of athletics/ diversity, equity and inclusion, accompanied by his daughter Brianna McBride and Broadway performer Jade Velenciaga.

African American Read-In is a celebration of literature written by African American authors, with parents, professionals and staff throughout the day dropping by to read a book that reflects the Black experience and how books are connected to their own experience.

Velenciaga recited the poem “A Thousand Ships” by J.G. Danso as a tribute to Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender activist who worked to provide safe spaces for the LGBTQIA community of New York City. Wildwood students from the LGBTQIA Art Club welcomed and interacted with Valenciaga. The performer also appealed to the assembly to take action in supporting people of marginalized groups, before spending the afternoon working with music and art classes.

The McBrides reflected on their careers as well, captivating the sixth grade students with their reflections, said Wildwood Principal Allison Estes.

Estes described the day as filled with joy and connection as students benefited from an exciting start to Black History Month.

Recreation and open spaces survey

Amherst’s Planning Department is seeking opinion from residents about recreation and open spaces in the town.

“This survey will be crucial in helping the town better understand the current state of our open space and recreation facilities,” Planner Rob Watchilla said in a statement. “It will also help with updating our Open Space and Recreation Plan, which makes the town eligible for grant funding to improve these facilities.”

A survey is available online though March 23. More information is at the town website at and the town’s Engage Amherst website at

Habitat needs for pollinators

Local naturalist John Root will discuss the habitat needs for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, wasps and hummingbirds, and pollinator-friendly landscaping practices, during a presentation Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Jones Library’s Woodbury Room.

The free program is sponsored in part by the Friends of the Jones Libraries and a grant from the Amherst Cultural Council.

Woman’s Club talk

Jennifer Schantz, director of the Eric Carle Museum, will speak at the Amherst Woman’s Club, 35 Triangle St., on Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Both members and the public are welcome to the event, which is part of the Monday day programming at the club.


SATURDAY: Four Towns Meeting, 9 a.m.