Its conference will address racism, equality NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown


April 15, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Yesterday's Carroll County edition incorrectly reported the location for Saturday's Conference on Racism and Equality. The conference runs from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Bond and Green streets, Westminster.

The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

In many ways, Tom E. Hurst says, Carroll County is an idyllic community with a friendly country atmosphere. Still, the director of the On Earth Peace Assembly in New Windsor says, all Carroll residents don't share equally in that friendliness.

"Some people must constantly pay attention to what they do," he said. "Simply because they are people of color, the community responds to them in different ways."


He wants to address that different response.

"I don't approach an issue head-on," he said. "People often get so passionate in their response, there can't be any dialogue. I make them think first."

Along with members of Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, he has organized a conference on racism and equality, "an educational activity," from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Westminster Church of the Brethren.

"If there is not complete freedom, what can we do from a religious, education and community perspective?" he asked. "The conference will permit people to look at what goes on in the community from a variety of perspectives and explore different responses."

Through four workshops, participants will discuss racism's impact on individuals, service agencies, education and religious institutions in the county.

"We will show how to respond to racism and challenge everyone to do one thing to fight racism here," he said.

"We are just asking for one step, no giant strides. Maybe something as simple as sharing our commitment to eliminate racism with one other person."

If the conference enables participants to ask questions and encourages them to overcome what remains of racism here, he said, he would call it successful.

Schools also can help in the education process, he said. Students from Friendship Valley Elementary will talk about their reading partnership with Lockerman Bundy School in inner-city Baltimore. Students from Bolling Brook Home for Boys, a juvenile facility, will discuss how racism affected their childhoods.

"We want to teach people it doesn't make sense to take freedom away from anyone because that person is another color," Mr. Hurst said.

He said although he may have the expertise to conduct a workshop on racism, he does not have the personal experience. He has invited Virginia Harrison, director of the county Community Relations Commission, and Rosemary Maxey, a member of the Muskogee nation, to speak.

"Racism is alive and well in this county," said Ms. Harrison. "It won't change until we take responsibility and change it ourselves."

She said she has "real hopes" that the conference will help participants bring experiences to the surface and deal with them.

"I learn when Virginia talks of her experiences here," said Mr. Hurst. "The issue is to do something in our own lives, to make a choice based on the goodness in our hearts."

Ms. Maxey said racism in the county is broader than black and white. It covers all ethnic groups.

"In some, racism is innocent and uncomprehending because it is so ingrained," she said. "In others, it is more deliberate."

As keynote speaker at the conference, she will concentrate on "community-oriented themes which lead to respect for racial and ethnic diversity."

Members of the On Earth Peace Assembly, a reconciliation ministry developed 20 years ago, provide experience and resources to deal with tension and conflict peacefully, said Mr. Hurst, 45 and a lifelong member of the Church of the Brethren.

"We are a peace education agency, which teaches what we believe and why," he said. "We try to find ways to be examples to the community."

He said his job is to make people think and question their values.

"I make people comfortable about questioning what they believe," he said. "I make them see none of us have the whole truth about an issue."

He remains optimistic, he said, because Carroll County has had many successes bridging the racial gap. He cites the Pairing and Caring Ministry from Westminster Church of the Brethren and Union Street United Methodist, which has developed programs for people of different races and ethnic backgrounds to worship together and interact in the community.

"We must get to know one another. If we don't, we won't integrate our activities," he said.

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