by Jennie McKenna and Ray Elliott
Editors’ Note: Ray Elliott, the co-author of this article, passed away on MAR 28th. You can find a remembrance of his life here.
On February 24, Citizens for Racial Amity Now (CRAN) hosted a gathering at the Jones Library in celebration of Black History Month. CRAN’s mission is the cultivation of racial amity as both a means and a goal. Ray Elliott, the founder and chairman, and recipient of the National Center for Race Amity Medal of Honor, was unable to attend due to illness. But, through a video taken that morning by Ash Hartwell, he welcomed those gathered, including State Rep. Mindy Domb, Matthew Charity, chairperson of the Amherst Human Rights Commission, Alisa Brewer, an at-large town councilor, Shannon Akosua, dean of Amherst Regional Middle School, and some forty others. Hartwell is a member of our local CRAN and also represented the event’s co-sponsor, the Amherst Baha’i Community.
The program included selections from the film An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition from the National Center for Race Amity and WHS Media Productions LLC, produced and directed by William (Smitty) Smith. The “other tradition” refers to the tradition of white people who have resisted racism, and fought against it, in support of movements and leaders for racial justice throughout American history. Following the film there was a group discussion that included the reminder that there is so much work to be done, that we shouldn’t think that a “progressive” community will naturally be less racist, that white people need to take hold of awakening themselves/ourselves about the history and struggles for racial justice and work together with the people of color in our area for further collaboration. People offered books to read, including Robin Diangelo’s recent White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. The discussion was followed by refreshments, conversations, and singing by members of the Amherst Gospel Choir.
Look here for more information about CRAN and the forthcoming neighborhood race amity dialogues.
Editors’ note: At the same time as the CRAN event, over 100 people gathered at the Unitarian Universalist of Society of Amherst for a racial justice event sponsored by Bridge4Unity.