Speakers tout importance of racial equality

Photo by Amy Cherry - St. Marys Mayor Lou Radkowski is shown addressing the crowd during the recent “Come Together: Rural PA for Racial Equality” event in St. Marys.
Amy Cherry
Staff Writer

The recent “Come Together: Rural PA for Racial Equality” event proved to be a peaceful demonstration as nearly 200 people gathered on Sunday on the Diamond in downtown St. Marys.
SMAHS educators Chris Taylor, Dani Catalano and Chris Woodford, organized the event with the goal of educating and creating a safe space to discuss and learn about the racial injustices that are occurring throughout the U.S.
“Thank you for being brave enough to come here today and say enough is enough. Thank you for being willing to learn and grow. Thank you for willing to be uncomfortable and discuss topics that are not easy to face. That is a testament to your character and our strength as a community,” stated Dani Catalano in her opening remarks.
The gathering began at 2 p.m. under bright, sunny skies. Attendees were encouraged to visit the activities offered at the event.
“Be open to learning. Be open to discussion. Be open to growth. Remember that to change the world, we need to start at home,” Catalano said. “By being here, you are saying that you are ready to do the hard work of making that change happen.”
“COVID-19 struck and disconnected us for the short term. Racism has been here, doing the same thing, decade after decade, through the centuries to divide us. We need to act now. We need to listen and educate ourselves to become better allies to the marginalized in our communities,” Radkowski said. “We are now working to cure our nation’s most endemic illness, racism.”
During his impassioned speech, he posed the question, how do most of the people in attendance at the event speak about something they will know nothing about and every truly understand.
As an example Radkowski said he will never understand what it’s like to feel in danger while taking a walk in his neighborhood because he looks like he doesn’t belong, or will never understand the pain of explaining the vitriol that will get spewed at his children and having to bravely ask them to ignore it and walk away.
“Similarly, I will never understand the anger levied at someone just because they look differently. I will never understand people feeling disgusted about the righteous anger felt by our neighbors and not about the crime that kicked it all off. Two weeks ago, our nation witnessed one person willfully take the life of another,” Radkowski said. “I…We can never understand.”
He continued, stating those in rural Pennsylvania can listen and be the example that we look to others to uphold.
“We never know who someone is, unless we truly listen to them. We don’t need to understand - or think of ourselves, as being able to conceive - what someone’s experience is. We must listen to others. We must rise above and seek to build that bridge that will begin to build the first connection. We can’t cure the disease until we take that first step,” Radkowski said.
He then quoted Rev. Martin Luther King, “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
“We are all interconnected as much as we choose to deny it. We need compassion. We need understanding. Saint Marys, and all of our rural places, can begin and be the example cultivating kindness that is sorely needed at this time,” Radkowski said.