Joined by representatives from federal, state and local government agencies, community groups and educational institutions, the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh celebrated their united Stand Against Racism as they have on the last Friday in April every year since 2007.
As Donna Imhoff, president of Community College of Allegheny County Allegheny Campus, welcomed speakers and students to the Forrester Center for the event, she told the story of Iowa teacher Jane Elliot, who essentially invented diversity training with her 1960s “blue eyed/brown eyed” experiment.
YMCA Senior Director Dina Clark kept with that theme in her remarks reminding everyone racism is learned.
“That means it can be unlearned,” she said. “We stand because racism and discrimination hurt everyone and has a profound effect on children, adults, communities and institutions. The legacy of racism affects our lives every day.”
YWCA Executive Director Magdeline Jensen said since its conception, Stand Against Racism has grown each year.
“Last year we had 30 organizations participating, this year it’s 50,” she said. “And this is happening all over the country. We project well over 300,000 people will be participating today.”
Clyde Pickett, CCAC’s diversity and inclusion officer, said the school is and will continue to be an institute of higher education for all people.
“We all have great gifts, but we need an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere in which to express them and flourish,” he said. “
The remainder of the speakers focused mostly on how and to whom people should report incidents of discrimination. Adam Stalcyznski from Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission explained, in terms of housing or employment discrimination in western Pennsylvania, his office handles everything outside the city of Pittsburgh.
Charles Morrison, who heads the Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission, explained that all their complaints are cross-filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the case of workplace discrimination and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, when dealing with housing discrimination.
“It’s also good to be here because April is Fair Housing Month and this year marks the 45th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act,” he said.
Tracy McCants Lewis of the Duquesne University School of Law recounted her work with elderly Blacks who, due to overt racism and Jim Crow laws in the south, could not provide the proof of age that Pennsylvania’s now-suspended Voter ID law required.
But the star of the afternoon was FBI Special Agent Brad Orsini, who displayed a charred cross that had been used to convict three people of a hate crime after it had been set on fire in the yard of an African-American.
“We put those people in jail. Since then we’ve prosecuted 6 more for burning crosses,” he said. “So, not only do I stand against racism—I will put people in jail.”
He received boisterous cheers and applauds from everyone.
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