Help from Her Friends

Last November, in the early morning hours on the day before Thanksgiving, a fire consumed a home on Wing Street, in Indian Orchard.

The house’s owner, Betty Agin, was, luckily, staying at a friend’s house at the time. But her luck was limited: her home was completely destroyed—as a Springfield Fire Department spokesman put it in an article in the Springfield Republican, “The house is gone, it’s a pile of rubble.”—along with its contents.

News of the fire spread quickly through the city’s activist and social-justice communities, whose members rallied to assist Agin, one of their own. A long-time community organizer, she’s the founding director of Universal Community Voices Eliminating Disparities, an offshoot of the Springfield Health Disparities Project. The campaign works with residents to identify health disparities in their communities and then organize to make changes. Agin also sits on the executive committee of Western Mass. Jobs With Justice.

Agin’s friends and allies have set up a fund to help her, through PeoplesBank. Donations can be sent to the Betty Agin Fire Fund at 1900 Wilbraham Rd, Springfield, MA 01129, or at any PeoplesBank branch.

And this Saturday, Agin’s friends at Community Against Hate will host a fundraiser for her at the Bing Arts Center, in Forest Park. Community Against Hate is an artists’ network “working to create and develop conscious artists through Community Forums and the creation of community performance space called Poetic Recovery. We aim to address the exploitation of Black Culture through education with a focus on HipHop so our communities can find cultural freedom,” according to the group.

The Bing event will feature live music by acoustic guitarist Jay Conz and Todd MacGarvey, who plays acoustic rock and the African flute; comedy by Arties Rob; and spoken-word performances by Liz Filomeno, Aaron LaRoche and Maurice “Soulfighter” Taylor, a poet and rapper who’s also Community Against Hate’s founder.

The event begins at 6:30 on Saturday, March 5, at the Bing Arts Center at 716 Sumner Ave. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door; further donations will be gladly accepted. The Bing, which is donating the space for the evening, will also provide a cash snack bar, and artist Rosemary Tracy Woods is organizing a raffle of donated items. (Donations can be made up until the day of the event by contacting Woods at 413-231-4598, or at

“Everyone who knows Betty knows how much time and effort she gives to our community,” Taylor noted in an announcement of the event. “Now she needs our help.”

Author: On Springfield

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