A growing movement toward racial equality : Social justice in a diverse community

Unity rally

In the wake of calls for social justice across the nation, several multiracial groups have been founded in Franklin County. All advocate social equality and justice. All have cropped up since 2016.

Earlier this month, a New York Times story focused on Chambersburg, paying special attention to the steady stream of pro-Black Lives Matter rallies in town.

civil rights
Protesters rallied peacefully, and daily, on the Square in downtown Chambersburg in June. (FCFP photo)

Members of three local organizations dedicated to social justice and racial equality have been a steady presence at the protests.

Those areRacialReconciliation, CommunityUniting! and ilseventeen.

None of these organizations existed prior to 2016. All three seek to make a major impact on issues of race and policing in Chambersburg and Franklin County.


RELATED: Toward racial justice forum


Racial Reconciliation

Racial Reconciliation, founded in 2016 In response to police murders of African Americans, is one of the organizations showcased in the New York Times article. The group planned the event featured — the Juneteenth Love Demonstration — last month.

The success of the gathering impressed founding members Linda and Marvin Worthy. It was something they envisioned to emphasize the importance of proactive antiracist actions, even before George Floyd’s murder.

“Although we react to issues when they occur, we are equally trying to be proactive in creating spaces that allow us to educate individuals about issues of racism and give them the competency and skill set to interrupt racism when it occurs in a variety of ways,” Marvin said . “We want to eliminate the excuse of ‘I don’t know how to respond.’”

Rather than events, Linda prefers to think of their work as “activities” to improve racial relations on a day-to-day basis.

The focus is teaching and training individuals to do what the Worthys simply call “the work.” That work happens whenever and wherever they are.

One current project is Identifying businesses and organizations actively committed to eradicating racism. They are looking for businesses who do that through actions rather than words, including the words of their mission statement.

By asking tough questions, Racial Reconciliation hopes to determine which organizations to partner with and which ones to challenge in the fight to make the area actively antiracist.

Racial justice in Franklin County is truly “a movement, not a moment” to the group. That theme carried over to the logo they displayed on shirts and signs during the Juneteenth demonstrations.


RELATED: Local civil rights demonstrations peaceful


Community Uniting!

Sandy Grotberg expressed similar sentiments when asked about the origins of Community Uniting. CU formed as an interfaith and “people of good will” group in response to the hostility that plagued the country following the 2016 election.

“It’s a process, not an accomplishment,” Grotberg, the group’s coordinator, said of their name. That name purposely takes the “-ing” ending rather than the expected “-ed” ending on the word “uniting.”

Community Uniting! has chosen to not track membership nor elect officers, encouraging people to join in the effort to unite a community which is home to many diverse identities.

Similar to Racial Reconciliation, past work of Community Uniting is both proactive and reactive; both event and activity based. Activities have included public speakers, candlelight vigils, and booths at Chambersfest emphasizing gratitude and kindness.

There is always a sense of “okay, what’s next” in the group, Grothberg said, as it evolves and continues to respond to national crises and promote everyday positivity in the community.

i1seventeen

A thirdgroup gearedtowardyoungadults sprang up last year.

At an event earlier this month, the local social justice group i1seventeen met over Zoom for the fourth time since launching a reboot of their gatherings this summer.

During the two-hour meeting they discussed Ibram X. Kendi’s 2019 book, How to be an Antiracist. They also worked to establish a monthly calendar of community events, podcast episode releases, and book discussions. Those center around uplifting diversity in Franklin County.

Ross Winegartner is i1seventeen’s leader and a teacher of Human Rights Literature at Greencastle-Antrim High School. He sensed a desire for joining together to do good in the community and decided to take action.

“The idea for this group came about in discussions with young people and members of my church,” he said. “I had many conversations with people who felt left out; people who wanted to be plugged into something that would give them voice and agency in working to better their world.”

i1seventeen has been meeting on zoom Thursday evenings, discussing plans to move forward and create a group that does sustainable work.

Ultimately, the goal is to become a vessel through which sustainable social justice work is done in the Greater Chambersburg Area. With youth on their side, they are excited to partner with more established groups doing similar work.

That’s Winegardner’s focus.

“I want to actively reach out and bring people together for the shared purpose of caring for our community, for one another,” he said. “More people working together means more diversity in perspectives and ideas. This will allow us to further strengthen and grow our communities.”

Getting involved

Anyone interested in joining the efforts of any groups mentioned above, please see the contact information listed below.

i1seventeen: visit i1seventeen on Facebook or send an email to [email protected]

Racial Reconciliation: visit Racial Reconciliation, Franklin County PA on Facebook or send an email to [email protected]

Community Uniting!: email [email protected] to be added to the CU! Digest


Information for this article was provided by Madison Mellinger, for Chambersburg Info Hub

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