A heartfelt welcome back, dear reader. It’s been awhile since The Valley Advocate’s last edition on April 30. The cover for that edition was titled, “We are still here,” highlighting a feature story about how the Cancer Connection was still offering phone and online support for cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five months removed from that edition, the title might end up be a good fit for the Valley Advocate, or some future version of it. Forced to suspend production at the end of April as a cost-saving measure during the pandemic, Publisher Michael Moses floated the idea two months ago to bring the Advocate back for this one-time edition that you’re holding now. The goal was to gauge whether there is an appetite — and financial support in the form of advertisements — to give it a relaunch, of sorts. Or whether it’s time to put the alternative weekly to bed — literally — after 47 years. (The Gazette bought the paper in 2007).

The results look promising. While decisions about the paper’s future have yet to be made, this 40-page special edition isn’t exactly the same as past editions, but it does try to reflect some of the monumental events that have occurred since we last published. Reporter Chris Goudreau’s cover story began as a wide-open assignment providing a snapshot on the Black Lives Matter movement in the Valley but quickly gained focus on the fallout from a U.S. Department of Justice report highlighting civil rights violations and police brutality over a number of years in the Springfield Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau.

That’s just one of the many significant events since the last edition on April 30. There were so many big stories in that timeframe — the fallout of the pandemic, the climate crisis, Black Lives Matter, President Trump, the economy — that Jennifer Levesque, who designs the Advocate, correctly noted that it’s too bad we weren’t in publication to add our voice to the discussion. Rather than write in depth about these events in this issue, former Advocate Editor Dave Eisenstadter agreed to tackle a “Top 20” list that begins on page 9.

Also inside is a special 16-page pull-out section of local cannabis dispensaries, complete with a map and description of all of those now open.

This edition also features a report from the Northampton League of Women Voters about how Northampton helped the women’s suffrage movement cross the finish line — an achievement that turned 100 this year. Also inside is the return of Stagestruck, where Chris Rohmann explains how Valley theaters are improvising in these tough times, and a guest column by well-known climate activist Marty Nathan.

Thanks for reading this special edition.