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Of Racism, Equality, and Justice

This curation of articles is intended to help readers of The Post better understand issues involved in the public outcry and protests that followed the May 25 (2020) death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis MN police. Click on any headline to read a story at its source. Articles with green headlines are those published in this space by The Post.

July 12, 2020

MontCo Sheriff’s Office Releases ‘Use of Force’ Policies
Montgomery County PA Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny has authorized the public release of his department’s Use of Force policies, due to heightened interest in law enforcement accountability and reform. (Facebook)

July 10, 2020

YWCA Offers Panel Discussion on Trauma Responsive Practices

YWCA Tri-County Area Offers Panel Discussion on Trauma Responsive Practices

POTTSTOWN PA – “Racism, Trauma, and What’s Next”, a six-part conversation-and-issue-education series sponsored by YWCA Tri-County Area, continues July 15 (2020; Wednesday), with an online panel discussion about mental health during this summer’s national crises, the resulting trauma, and trauma-responsive practices.

“Racism, Trauma, and What’s Next” is designed to open conversations about racism, racial justice, and social justice through online town hall meetings and book and film discussions. Registration for the July 15 discussion is available here.

The July 15 Zoom forum on trauma responsive practices will engage the community in a conversation addressing the mental health and trauma surrounding two public health crises facing Americans this summer: the COVID-19 pandemic, and widespread protests in response to the death of George Floyd. A panel of community professionals will discuss the two crises and their effects on the health and well-being of our neighborhoods. They also will cover how to transition to a new normal while ensuring a practice of inclusion, equality, and diversity.

The remainder of the series includes, on:

  • July 27: movie analysis of “13th”, a 2016 documentary exploring racial inequality, directed by Ava DuVernay;
  • Aug. 3: study of the book “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo; and
  • Aug. 24: movie analysis of “American Son”, a 2019 film directed by Kenny Leon.

After each session, participants will be invited to respond to a call to action, which may include contacting local, state and federal government representatives, working toward policy changes locally or statewide, or volunteering with local community groups that are committed to change.

Photo from the YWCA Tri-County Area webpage on “Racism, Trauma, and What’s Next”

July 8, 2020

Police departments vary in publicizing use-of-force policies
A survey of 35 of PA’s most populated cities and towns found less than a third of their departments uploaded use-of-force policy for public access. A lack of transparency is fueling calls for changes. (PA Post)

July 1, 2020

Pottstown Community Arts Hosts Protest Art Show
Pottstown Community Arts helped create four temporary art displays throughout Pottstown, featuring Peace and Equality-themed protest signs carried during the peaceful June 8 protest down High Street.

First police-reform bills after protests go to governor
Gov. Tom Wolf will sign the first bills passed by Pennsylvania’s Legislature in response to widespread protests over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd, his office said Tuesday. (Associated Press)

June 25, 2020

SEIU PA State Council Applauds Passing of PLBC Policing Bills

HARRISBURG PA – The SEIU Pennsylvania State Council congratulates the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and the state Legislature at large for the passing of HB 1910, HB 1841 and SB 1205.

In this moment of unprecedented demand for racial justice, stemming from the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, members of the PLBC have demanded that the legislature consider bills aimed at obtaining better policing policies and achieving equal rights for people of color — particularly black Pennsylvanians. 

Today SEIU recognizes the important step of passing HB 1910, and HB 1841, and SB 1205 and applauds State Representatives Chris Rabb, Jason Dawkins, Harry Readshaw, Dan Williams, and Senator Sharif Street; whose measures were passed unanimously by the House and Senate. Although we know that far more needs to be done to achieve true reform to end systemic racism in policing, education, housing, health, and employment opportunities, we recognize that change must start somewhere, and this is a start to what we hope will be an ongoing effort. 

“Video after video, story after story, we have witnessed unspeakable terrors committed against black people throughout the country, and now in this moment we must all make a commitment to ensure that regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background, everyone deserves to be and feel safe. While we know that these legislative measures are one small step towards a larger goal, we applaud the efforts of the PLBC for bringing these measures to the forefront,” said Gabe Morgan, President of the PA State Council and Vice President of Local 32BJ. “This is not a time to be complacent, and we will work with the PLBC and the legislature at large, as well as our own black and brown members, and activists to ensure that the right for racial justice continues throughout the General Assembly.”

In addition to the aforementioned legislative measures, SEIU supports the larger legislative agenda led by the PLBC that seeks to implement stronger reforms to policing and establish greater racial equity. Those measures include the following reforms:

  • Independent investigations of police involved killings.
  • Apply all of the public education money to the formula that gives poor school districts 4x the money of rich school districts.
  • Raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.
  • Reduce the prison population of nonviolent offenders out of prison and invest millions of dollars in people and communities.
  • Establish/Require an independent review process where police kill or seriously injure civilians (special prosecutor/grand jury/citizen review).
  • Improve access to police video footage by requiring all non body camera police video to be subject to Right to Know laws.

The locals of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council include SEIU Local 32BJ, SEIU Local 668, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Workers United.  These locals represent 80,000 workers statewide – including property service workers, health care workers, public service workers, school employees, laundry and distribution workers.

June 24, 2020

Journalists of color are part of the story of racism in America. That raises tough questions on the job
The issues of racism and police brutality that are being protested against after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police also reflect the lived experiences of many journalists of color. (Center for Health Journalism)

June 23, 2020

YWCA Opens Summer Conversations on 'Racism, Trauma, and What’s Next?'
Black Live Matter rally June 6, 2020 in Century City CA | Photo by Brett Morrison

YWCA Opens Summer Conversations on ‘Racism, Trauma, and What’s Next?’

POTTSTOWN PA – “Racism, Trauma, and What’s Next?”, a six-part online conversation and education series, sponsored by the YWCA Tri-County Area and YWCA Bucks County, begins Wednesday (June 24, 2020) from 6-8 p.m. and is open to the public, the organizations jointly announced. Registration for the first of the series is available here.

It’s intended to foster discussions about racism, racial justice, and social justice through three forms of media: online town hall meetings, book studies, and movies. On Wednesday, participants will hear a webinar titled “Race, Justice, and Policing” that features local and state police officers as they address topics such as de-escalation techniques, racial bias, and police accountability.

The remainder of the series schedule includes:

  • July 6: a book study of “White Fragility;” by Robin DiAngelo;
  • July 8: a webinar titled “What’s Next: Trauma Responsive Practices;”
  • July 20: an analysis of the movie “13th”, a 2016 documentary directed by Ava DuVernay that explores racial inequality;
  • Aug. 3: a book study of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo; and
  • Aug. 17: an analysis of the movie “American Son”, a 2019 film directed by Kenny Leon.

Following each session, participants will be invited to respond to a call to action, which may include contacting local, state and federal government representatives, working toward policy changes locally or statewide, or volunteering with local community groups who are committed to change.

For more information, call the YWCA Tri-County Area at 610-323-1888.

Photo by Brett Morrison, via Flickr and Wikimedia, used under a Creative Commons license

June 16, 2020

Pressure on Montco commissioner to resign grows over comments on rioting
Calls continue for the removal of Montgomery County Commissioner Joseph Gale, who has referred to Black Lives Matter as a “radical left-wing hate group, with another protest held Monday night. (WFMZ-TV)

Red tape, lack of funding limit public’s oversight of Pa. police through body cameras
Hailed as a tool to better protect people from violent police officers, their use and effectiveness have been limited. Gov. Tom Wolf says it’s time to revisit the issue. (PA Post)

Lawmakers advance proposals on police hiring, training
Bills to change how police are hired and trained were approved unanimously on Monday by a Pennsylvania House committee, a week after black state representatives pressured majority Republicans to take action. (Associated Press)

Statement from the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council

HARRISBURG PA – The SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, which includes SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and its representation of bargaining unit employees at Pottstown Hospital, issued the following statement Tuesday (June 16, 2020) regarding the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

“The SEIU Pennsylvania State Council is proud to support the work of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus (PLBC), which has taken important steps to help achieve racial justice in Pennsylvania on a legislative level. In this moment of unprecedented demand for racial justice, stemming from the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, members of the PLBC have demanded that the legislature consider bills aimed at obtaining better policing policies and achieving equal rights for people of color — particularly black Pennsylvanians.”

“Today SEIU recognizes the important step of passing SB 637, HB 1910, and HB 1841, and applauds State Representatives Chris Rabb, Jason Dawkins, Harry Readshaw, Dan Williams, whose measures were passed unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee. Although we know that far more needs to be done to achieve true reform to end systemic racism in policing, education, housing, health, and employment opportunities, we recognize that change must start somewhere, and this is a start to what we hope will be an ongoing effort.”

“Video after video, story after story, we have witnessed unspeakable terrors committed against black people throughout the country, and now in this moment we must all make a commitment to ensure that regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background, everyone deserves to be and feel safe. While we know that these legislative measures are one small step towards a larger goal, we applaud the efforts of the PLBC for bringing these measures to the forefront,” said Gabe Morgan, President of the PA State Council and Vice President of Local 32BJ. “This is not a time to be complacent, and we will work with the PLBC and the legislature at large, as well as our own black and brown members, and activists to ensure that the right for racial justice continues throughout the General Assembly.”

“In addition to the aforementioned legislative measures, SEIU supports the larger legislative agenda led by the PLBC that seeks to implement stronger reforms to policing and establish greater racial equity. Those measures include the following reforms:”

  • “Independent investigations of police involved killings.
  • Change the use of lethal force policing policies to require de-escalation and prohibit chokeholds and other similar practices.
  • Apply all of the public education money to the formula that gives poor school districts 4x the money of rich school districts.
  • Raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.
  • Reduce the prison population of nonviolent offenders out of prison and invest millions of dollars in people and communities.
  • Establish/Require an independent review process where police kill or seriously injure civilians (special prosecutor/grand jury/citizen review).
  • Improve access to police video footage by requiring all non body camera police video to be subject to Right to Know laws.”

“The locals of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council include SEIU Local 32BJ, SEIU Local 668, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Workers United. These locals represent 80,000 workers statewide – including property service workers, health care workers, public service workers, school employees, laundry and distribution workers.”

June 15, 2020

BLM Rally Schwenksville

‘Black Lives Matter Meets Schwenksville’, Peacefully and Successfully
A peaceful but emotion- and passion-filled rally of more than 250 people converged Sunday in Schwenksville to show and voice their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and an end to racism. (The Post)

Photo by The Post Publications

June 12, 2020

Fighting Racism, Advancing Equity: a statement from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation

In our country and our community, we are hearing the footsteps of change—from the thousands marching down Pottstown’s High Street to take a stand for peace and equality, to the half-mile of protesters demonstrating along Boyertown’s Philadelphia Avenue. We walk alongside those footsteps and support the actions of all individuals fighting racism and demanding racial equity.

We acknowledge that these demands for justice are not only in response to the murder of George Floyd—black communities have been crying out for justice year after year, decade after decade. Their voices have too often gone unheard. We will work, as part of our community, towards seeing that they have gone unheard for the last time.

Where do we go from here to improve racial equity in Pottstown and our region?  The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation will invest in racial equity via causes that promote:

  • health equity
  • educational equity, and
  • economic equity.

We will work to bring community voices together and join in conversations with local leaders to understand the pathways forward.  We will form new partnerships that empower efforts to enact change. It’s time for all of us to ensure that the long-deferred promise of equality and justice is redeemed in our communities.

June 10, 2020

Pottstown Clergy Offer Prayers of Mourning, Lament
As the nation, and Pottstown along with it, struggles under the burden of a world-wide pandemic, and a worldwide reaction to the police killings of African-Americans, a group of 14 area clergy turned where one might expect them to turn for comfort — to prayer. (Digital Notebook)

Statement from the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area

POTTSTOWN PA – Justice, Fairness, Opportunity, Equity, Community and Safety. These are values we all share and hope for ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. Racial biases, stereotypes and discrimination practices prevent some people from accessing these treasured human rights. 

The tragic death of George Floyd has resulted in a global outcry for racial justice and the demand for reform in generational systems which discriminate and create barriers for People of Color. People around the world, including the very communities Schuylkill River Greenways (SRG) serves, are expressing their sorrow, anger and pain.

SRG’s mission is to connect residents, visitors and communities to the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement and economic development in order to foster stewardship of the watershed and its heritage. Civic engagement is the action taken to identify and address issues of public concern. SRG wants the communities we serve to know we hear their public concern about racial inequality, and we are here to be a part of the solution. We also understand true economic development won’t happen until we address the obstacles faced by People of Color and their communities.

Increasing stewardship of the river, trail, and the region’s natural resources is our ultimate vision as an organization. Yet it’s a challenge for most people to care deeply about stewardship of these local resources when members of their community are suffering from injustice. Although some may perceive these injustices as nonexistent, these concerns are very real. Until we help resolve these inequalities, we will never reach our goal of diverse and massive stewardship.

As a State and National Heritage Area, SRG is a lived-in landscape filled with stories about the region’s history, culture and natural environment. By trying to celebrate the national significance of the region, we sometimes overlook the blood, sweat and tears this country was built on. Racial injustice and discrimination is not a pleasant topic but it is a part of our history and present reality. We need to discuss racial inequality so we can move toward a better, more united future.

Our Next Steps
Dialogue is the first step toward changes of diversity, equity and inclusion. Schuylkill River Greenways is taking this step forward. We want the communities we serve to know we’re here to listen, learn and understand. The core values written in our strategic plan matter now more than ever.

  • Leadership – “We strive to be a gracious, thoughtful and strategic leader.” SRG strives to be an organization that is trustworthy and one with courage to be a catalyst for positive change.
  • Collaboration – “We work with our partners with a collaborative, respectful and inclusive spirit.” SRG understands the community is an important partner of our mission. We will work with others toward the goal of true equity and inclusion.
  • Excellence, Integrity & Accountability – “We uphold a commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our work and take personal accountability for our actions and results.” We take accountability for lacking in diversity, equity and inclusion practices but commit ourselves to work on this for the future.
  • Diversity – “We conduct ourselves in a manner that fosters a community that is open and welcoming to diverse people, ideas and perspectives.” We understand that to truly foster such a community then we must have conversations about race and reform our own practices to better serve the region.
  • Active & Healthy Living – “We promote a safe, healthy and sustainable environment where our residents and guests can flourish personally, physically and socially as active, whole beings.” We cannot expect people to flourish until we address the embedded environments of discrimination and inequality people are currently facing.

One of the goals listed in our strategic plan is for Schuylkill River Greenways to improve as an organization. To achieve this goal, we must evaluate our Board, staff, volunteer organization and our practices. We will work on broadening the diversity in representation of these groups, and incorporating equity into the practices which we use to guide our organization. Schuylkill River Greenways is creating a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to do just that. As we build this committee, we welcome feedback from the communities we serve. Our education staff regularly participates in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings and we are committed to delivering high quality environmental education while also removing barriers to outdoor spaces communities face because of racial disparities.

Sincerely,
Schuylkill River Greenways Staff and Board

June 9, 2020

House Democratic Southeast Delegation issues statement supporting protests against racial injustice

HARRISBURG PA – The House Democratic Southeast Delegation today issued the following statement in response to the death of George Floyd and ongoing protests against racial injustice.

“The video of George Floyd suffocating in police custody as pedestrians pleaded with officers to check on his well-being is heartbreaking.

“It’s heartbreaking because another life has been taken too soon.

“It’s heartbreaking because George Floyd’s death could have easily been avoided.

“And it’s heartbreaking, because George Floyd’s death illustrates yet another example of the type of racial injustice we have witnessed too many times across our nation in recent memory – and for centuries.

“People in our communities are understandably sad, upset, disappointed and angry.

“The House Democratic Southeast Delegation stands committed to end racism and promote equality in our communities and across our state. It is not acceptable for resources or opportunities to be determined by race.

“We are asking citizens to be resolute in their determination to find effective solutions to the inequalities we see in our communities.

“Protests have raised awareness about racial injustice and have already helped bring about change.

“Each of our delegation’s members are willing and looking forward to having conversations about the change that needs to happen in order to ensure equality, preserve lives and avoid violence in our communities.”

The House Democratic Southeast Delegation includes 35 members representing Berks, Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery and York counties. State Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, is chairwoman of the delegation.

June 5, 2020

Sunday Pottstown Walk Promotes Peace, Equality
Raising awareness about racism and related injustice, and promoting “peace and equality,” are the goals set for a second weekend rally scheduled for Sunday (June 7, 2020) that is sparked by the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, its planners said Thursday (June 4). (The Post)

June 3, 2020

Hundreds join peaceful protest in Boyertown to support Black Lives Matter, local police
The line of hundreds of people stretched more than six blocks along East Philadelphia Avenue in Boyertown on Tuesday, June 2, for a peaceful demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in memory of George Floyd. (Berks-Mont News)

June 1, 2020

Social Media Observers Embrace Pottstown Peaceful Protest
POTTSTOWN PA – The gathering of a crowd Sunday afternoon (May 31, 2020) and early evening at Smith Family Plaza outside Pottstown Borough Hall on East High Street, and other similar groups elsewhere downtown, represented what local social media observers said was a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (The Post)