Area United Way event encourages actions to overcome racial divisions | Forum

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Angel92 Sep 28 '17

HUNTINGTON — Community leaders <a href=""></a>; and local experts on race relations spoke Tuesday at St. Mary's Medical Center for Education to encourage a group of about 50 people to start taking action against racism instead of just talking about it.

The gathering was the fourth installment of a United Way of the River Cities conversation series called "Together We Rise," which ended in March but was brought back following the death of one person at a white nationalist rally last month in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Ten speakers appealed to audience members' ethics, emotion and logic at the meeting, sharing sociological research, personal stories and statistics. They also broke out with the audience into discussion groups to tackle difficult subject matter and propose solutions to removing racism in our institutional and structural social framework, such as racial discrimination in public education and the criminal-justice system.

"The whole idea primarily is to give people the chance to talk to each other about a topic that's uncomfortable in a safe space," said Laura Gilliam, executive director of United Way. "For me personally it's important, but our organization is also a real advocate of this type of discussion and … working together at a community level."

Performance artist and educator Mitzi Sinnott, First Baptist Church pastor Donte Jackson and Rubberlite Inc. President Alan Letton introduced the topic of discussion. Lawyer Abe Saad offered statistical evidence for racism in the criminal justice system, while Sandra Clements and Justin Murdock, members of Mayor Steve Williams' <a href=""></a>; Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, discussed what the city government is doing to fight racism.

"The city of Huntington is not inclusive," said Clements, who is black. "If I go to St. Joe and I sit in a pew, nobody else sits on the pew. Today."

Murdock talked about a campaign he started on the mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee to have local businesses promote their acceptance of diversity, a simple sticker that indicates to customers that they are "open to all."

"You come to this store, you walk in — regardless of your race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, this business has publicly stated, 'We want your business,'" Murdock said. "Simply put, that's what this campaign is about: 'I don't care if you like me or not. I just want you to treat me the same as you treat all your other customers.'"

Marshall University Professor Burnis Morris talked about what "The Mis-Education of the Negro" by Carter G. Woodson contributes to the modern discussion about race in the education system, while Jess Maynard of West Virginia's Showing Up for Racial Justice group talked about white privilege. Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, also spoke.

Ron L. James, author and co-founder of the Your Choice Foundation in York, Pennsylvania, closed out the event with a message about receiving gifts. He told The Herald-Dispatch one of the greatest gifts he ever received was a poem from his mother: "Good, better, best. May you never rest until the good gets better and the better best."

"She saw something in me that I didn't see in myself," James said, noting racism will persist like his drug problems and the low esteem he had for himself if people don't look past the problems it poses for solutions. "She was able to <a href="">Rico Gathers Youth Jersey</a> see through that and still see something in me that was worth value."