This is a guest post from Kathyrn Liss, who was the volunteer coordinator of the 2010 Stand Against Racism.
What an exciting Stand Against Racism we had! There were seventy-five participating organizations and several more sponsors. Events ranged small private stands with just a few people getting together to talk about racism to large public stands where a hundred people got to participate in a conversation on race in our community. Schools and universities also invovled their students to varying degrees.
I was lucky to be able to participate in many of the activities. For me it began on Thurday, April 29 with the lecture at MAHEC with Dr. Dwight Mullen from UNCA presenting to a very engaged audience about “The State of Black Asheville”. I was delighted to see almost a third of the attendees were African Americans and several were people who had grown up in Asheville. They got involved in a lively dialogue which included some of the most pressing contemporary issues, like disparities in health care and education as well as some of the unhealed wounds, like urban renewal and gentrification.
Friday morning, April 30, I was on the road by 9:30 am. I dropped by at the Department of Human Services and picked up some buttons and cards they had made for themselves to promote the day. I dropped off flyers for the dialogue on race in the schools which will started on Tuesday, May 11. From there, I went to Pisgah View Garden which was hosting a work day in this extraordinary urban organic farm in a public housing development.
Leaving there, I stopped at the Jewish Community Center where the pre-schoolers were all wearing stickers reading “racism hurts everyone” while they ran around on the playground. Preparations were already underway for the several events which were to take place later in the day. I left them to go to Laurey’s resturant on Biltmore Avenue to buy some lunch where the wait staff all wore Stand Against Racism buttons.
I took my lunch to Pack Park where I met up with the women from the AAUW. We sat together on the steps of the new ampitheater and ate and discussed our personal experiences with racism. While we were sitting there, we saw the city employees doing their relay walk through the Eagle Market St area (the Block) and around back to city hall. I walked a ways with them talking to Chief of Police Hogan and Erika G. and took their photo. The city created a wonderful video of staff talking about the Stand Against Racism.
On my way out of town to Black Mountain, I saw the children from Isaac Dickson Elementary School marching with their banners and chanting about an end to racism. It was a heart-warming sight. I later learned that they also had a Soul Food Potluck, and heard from Marvin Chambers and a gospel choir.
Arriving at Black Mountain again there was an extraordinary turn out to hear the panel discussion organized by Roberta Madden and moderated by our local WLOS-TV anchor person Darcel Grimes. Included on the panel were two town alderman and O.L. Sherrill who was the African American principal at Asheville High School when the schools were integrated. Also there was an outstanding talk by Jane Hancock formerly on the Board of Directors of Building Bridges. They have 42 people signed up to continue the dialogue.
At 4 pm, I found myself at Aston Park with the YWCA of Asheville. We had about 100 young people and adults come to hear a poem read by Celeste Sherer and music by staff of the YWCA, as well as two songs sung by the children themselves.
That evening, I went to Congregation Beth Ha Tephila where the rabbi gave an outstanding sermon on the relationship of civil rights for African Americans to Jews. That was reiterated the next morning at Beth Israel where Marvin Chambers and Jacquelyn Hallum spoke.
I have heard from people who participated in several of the conversations held in town, at MANNA FoodBank and the Community Foundation. Each of these opportunities offered different groups a chance to think about racism in new and different ways. I am eager to hear from others as the reports come in.