Equality group to be honored

March 20, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Plaid stands for something this week in Carroll County.

The brightly colored ribbons people have pinned to their lapels and shirt collars are designed to let others know they believe that harmony and understanding among races and cultures are important.

The ribbons are being distributed as part of Human Relations Week, which started yesterday and is sponsored by the Carroll County Human Relations Commission. The commission chooses one week a year to highlight efforts in Carroll to improve community relations, said Virginia Harrison of Sykesville, who chairs the seven-member commission.

The organization is sponsoring its third annual awards banquet at 6 o'clock tonight at Frisco Family Pub in Westminster. County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown is scheduled to speak. The Human Relations Commission will honor one citizens group and two residents for community relations work.

Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality will receive the third annual Human Relations Award. The 4-year-old group was active late last year after two racial incidents at Western Maryland College.

In early November, someone burned a racial epithet into the eighth green of the college golf course. Several weeks later, someone used a fire extinguisher to write the same epithet on a campus tennis court.

A $500 reward was offered by the college and the Student Government Association for information about the incidents, but no arrests have been made.

Gary Honeman of Westminster, one of three coordinators of Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, said members joined a campus rally because they wanted the community to know "we had zero tolerance" for hate crimes.

The group also wrote letters to local newspapers.

"We believe that the citizens of Carroll County should not tolerate racial, religious or ethnic acts of prejudice and violence," the letters said. "It is one thing to respond in a crisis. It is far better to have an ongoing and sustained moral and legal concern to eliminate all forms of prejudice and bigotry in our community life."

The citizens group has a mailing list of about 65 people. Six or seven attend monthly leadership meetings, said Mr. Honeman, a family counselor at the Youth Service Bureau.

Next month, Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality will sponsor a spring program with music, drama and discussion for young people and adults. A similar program two years ago drew 100 people, Mr. Honeman said.

The free program, called "Strengthening the Community Through Racial Equality," is planned for 9 a.m. to noon April 29, at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Westminster. Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Carroll County Democrat, is scheduled to speak.

"We have an opportunity in Carroll County for a diverse group of people to come together to celebrate how we're working at racial equality and to have some fun," Mr. Honeman said.

Also to be recognized at the banquet tonight are Kathy Horneman of Eldersburg, leader of the South Carroll Coalition, which has been active in community issues; and Steve Letnaunchyn of Hampstead, former vice chairman of the Human Relations Commission.

On Wednesday, Richard Bucher, past commission chairman, will speak to eighth-grade social studies classes at West Middle School. Mrs. Harrison, who also is a leader in Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, will speak at a noon meeting of the Community Services Council of Carroll County at Frisco Pub.

Mrs. Harrison, a seamstress, said the Human Relations Commission plans to work this year to increase the community's awareness of its activities. The group was formed about six years ago.

Members mediate disputes. Anyone with a complaint must fill out a form; all complaints are kept confidential, she said.

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