Amherst Area Gospel Choir performs at Race Amity Day in Amherst. Photo: Adrienne Terrizzi.

By Jenifer McKenna with Ash Hartwell and Juan Caban

Jasmine Robinson speaking at Race Amity Day in Amherst. Photo: Jenifer McKenna

On May 20, 2015, Amherst Town Meeting voted on Raymond Elliott’s article to establish the second Sunday of June as Race Amity Day, and urged all the people of Amherst to recognize this event and celebrate its annual observance. This article was part of a successful statewide effort to establish the event across the Commonwealth.

This year’s celebration took place on the Town Common on June 9, attended by a diverse audience of some fifty-five people, under the shade of the generous trees. Race Amity asks us to recognize the principle of the oneness of humankind and to join in reflection on the beauty and richness of our diverse cultures and ethnicities, while reaching out with a spirit of amity toward one another.

Amherst Town Council President Lynn Greisemer speaking at Race Amity Day in Amherst. Photo: Jenifer McKenna

The event was opened by Jasmine Robinson reading a prayer from the Baha’i faith. Next, Ash Hartwell introduced the day’s program and Citizens for Racial Amity Now (CRAN), which hosted the event. Lynn Griesemer (District 2 and town council president), accompanied by some of the town’s councilors, including Darcy Dumont (District 5) and Pat DeAngelis (District 2), read the proclamation passed by the town council in May of this year.

Kathleen Anderson gave a short talk on the history of racism.  She began by citing the now-longstanding science that reminds us that there is only one race, the human race, and posed the question of how this thing we call racism got its footing in our culture and country. She posited that it began four hundred years ago with the arrival of the first slaves to our shores in Jamestown, Virginia and asserted that now is the time for repair.                             

Kathleen Anderson speaks at Race Amity Day in Amherst. Photo by Jenifer McKenna.

The Amherst Area Gospel Choir, led by Jacqueline Wallace, sang next, followed by Naz Mohammed, who spoke on behalf of the Hampshire Mosque and the Interfaith Opportunities Network, which is encouraging the leadership in the local faith communities to incorporate the theme of racial amity into their services and reflections. She invited the group to visit the Hampshire Mosque, on Route 9 in Hadley, on Fridays at one p.m. for their weekly prayer service.

Adrienne Terrizzi spoke on behalf of the League of Women Voters, Amherst, mentioning their commitment to the practises of democracy, especially voting rights, as tools to move us toward amity. Charon Daughtry read a poem she had written to honor and remember Raymond Elliott and sang a song. Peter Blood of Rise Up Singing spoke on behalf of the Interfaith Opportunity Network, and the program ended with a call-and-response song led by Annie Patterson, also of Rise Up Singing.

Race Amity Day in Amherst. Michael Morgenau D.J. Photo: Jenifer McKenna

The spirit of Race Amity was strongly present in the event, as it had been the day before at the memorial service for Raymond Elliott, one of the founders of CRAN. Those present could feel the invitation and opportunities, the force of solidarity, and the responsibilities to commit to CRAN’s mission.

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