On July 15, 2010, The York City Human Relations Commission held the 10th Annual, and final Unity March. Over 1200 participants showed up and marched under the scorching sun and oppressive heat from York City’s Penn Park to Farquhar Park. The march represents the literal and figurative steps each one of us can take to end hate, prejudice, violence, discrimination, bias, and exclusion.
Opening remarks were given by York City Mayor C. Kim Bracey, the Reverend Ron Rengilian of the York Unitarian & Universalist Congregation and others. Nathaniel Gonzalez, a sixth grader at Edgar Fahs Smith Elementary School was honored as the winner of a t-shirt design contest for the event. He was one of 35 students to submit artwork for the contest. Nathaniel beamed from the stage and told the crowd: “This shirt represents the unity!”
The Reverend Kate Bortner has been an organizer of this annual event since its inception in 2000. Reverend Bortner said that the event is “…part of passing York’s history on to the younger generation and at the same time, changing history step, by step.
The march aims to “promote good will and harmony among inner-groups” according to Ms. Stephanie Seaton, Executive Director of the York City Human Relations Commission. Ms. Seaton was the Education and Outreach coordinator for the Commission when the annual march was first organized in 2000 and has since been promoted to Executive Director of the Commission. She reflected on the gains the York community has made in ten years in the interest of unity, diversity, tolerance and acceptance of all people. She noted that the York County Community Against Racism and the YWCA’s Race Against Racism were formed within the last ten years as well as the Leadership for Diverse Schools and YorkCounts with one of its Indicators being Relative Diversity.
Numerous organizations and businesses were represented at the march including the Salvation Army, the Northeast Neighborhood Association, Helping Hand, Kinard Trucking, Wolf, WLCH FM Radio Centro, Planned Parenthood, the York City Police Department, The York County Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and YWCA and the York County Sheriff’s Department. The YMCA alone, brought about 100 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old to the march.
Six year old Aalisia said that her Mom told her that the march was “…about having peace, unity and fairness in our hearts.” I’m not sure that I knew what “peace, unity and fairness” meant when I was six years old, but because of the Unity March, Aalisia has grown in her understanding of these concepts. Young Aalisia witnessed and participated in this peaceable assembly on the streets of York City. She is one of hundreds of children who will carry these principals forth.
Silent Witness Peacekeepers Alliance participated in the event acting as a firewall of protection between Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Individuals participating in the march and protestors who come to speak out against participants. Silent Witness representatives carry jumbo- sized rainbow colored umbrellas that they use to shield participants from protest signs and language of a hurtful nature.
Ms. Seaton noted that despite the end of this decade-long march, there is still much work to be done in the arena of unity and diversity building. The Commission plans to ramp up its existing outreach and education components through continued contact with organizations and individuals. Ms. Seaton spoke of the positive changes in the social and political climates in the past ten years.
She said “I was emotional at that last march.” She spoke of the time, energy and dedication of the community. She said “I’ll miss this. We accomplished what we set out to accomplish”.
Long live love, acceptance, peace, fairness, inclusion and Unity in our city, York City.