A Morning of Unity for a World of Diversity

Emilija Sagaityte

On September 14th, while many children and adults in our community spent their morning chatting in their homes, offices, or the school halls about the latest episodes of their favorite shows or about the exciting or troublesome events of Tuesday evening, a diverse group of members of our community, including students from Radnor Middle School, students from Radnor High School, parents, teachers, administrators, and other adults, spent the morning talking at Villanova about a much more important, serious, and undeniably still relevant topic: racism.

The topic of racism can be found practically anywhere – in our books, in the news, in classroom discussions, and even within the depths of our minds – but the difficulty comes with bringing it out into the open where people can freely and honestly discuss it and share their opinions on the existence of this issue at this time in our communities. However, this is the only way that the lingering problem can be addressed and solved completely, which is why the CommUNITY Breakfast of the Main Line “Undoing Racism Day”: Embracing the Difference was created in Radnor Township, bringing together people of various ages and perspectives to give their intake on the subject and work together to answer two very pressing questions, which this year were, is racism a problem in our community and in our society, and how can Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of a “beloved community” be used to undo the racism that exists?

The breakfast commenced with an opening prayer by Reverend Carlos Bounds that was followed by a speech by Radnor High School’s Vice Principal David Stango, and it then transitioned into an open conversation, which was facilitated by the high school students, at each of the tables that consisted of a mix of students and adults. They all discussed one of the two themes, contributing their own views on racism and how to eliminate it while also respectfully listening to what everyone else had to say, and afterwards, they shared their sincere opinions and meaningful, well thought-out responses with the rest of the group. “Having this forum where diverse people of all ages get to sit down and talk unfortunately is unique,” notes CommUNITY Breakfast facilitator Anne Minicozzi, “I wish we could do it more often.” Teresa A. Nance, Ph.D. Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer, Associate Professor at Villanova University, then synthesized what everyone had been discussing, and Reverend Joseph L. Narog made a closing prayer. Finally, the Unity Choir, which was directed by Carolyn Nance, sang “America,” concluding this year’s CommUNITY Breakfast that was certainly a successful start to Undoing Racism Day but was actually not Radnor’s first.

Its predecessor was the Unity breakfast that was begun by Radnor’s Community Awareness Committee, which was established in 2000 with the goal of bringing together police and community members after an incident between an African American and a police officer in the township, and the well-attended event continued until 2008. The public’s desire to bring it back then surfaced in 2010 during a reception for Radnor’s Richard Allen Park, which was named after a slave who bought his freedom and then went on to preach at the Radnor United Methodist Church, where the reception was held, and to found Philadelphia’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. The following year, the appropriately renamed CommUNITY Breakfast that’s now sponsored by the community and led by volunteers from various townships, organizations, and schools resurged, bringing in 120 people, and hopefully this time it will continue to stick around for many years to come and provide the children and adults of our community with the same positive, noteworthy, and unforgettable experience that was served to them this year.

“It was a great event. It’s nice to have a group that represents so many parts of our community have the opportunity to sit down and talk about this openly and understand that this is not an easy conversation sometimes,” says Mr. Stango, “It made us think not about using differences to push us further apart but about celebrating those differences and seeing the value in that. This made the discussion beneficial and necessary.” It wasn’t just the adults that enjoyed it though; even the high school students who got involved found it valuable. Sophomore Sydney Brumfield comments, “[The event] allowed me to see that the community acknowledges that racism exists and is trying to pursue the causes of it.” Similarly, junior Anne Randall notes, “Having these discussions about difficult issues is really important, especially in a time during which the topic of race and inequality is at a peak. It’s a difficult concept to understand and even more difficult to discuss candidly, so having an open, community-wide meeting is all the more necessary.”

The steering committee that organizes the breakfast each year also meets every month and invites people from Radnor, Tredyffrin, Haverford, and Lower Merion to discuss possibilities for next year’s CommUNITY Breakfast. “Because we are gathering, we are networking with each other to learn about the classes, seminars, and events each of our organizations is offering which relate to unity, peace, diversity, and inclusion,” explains Minicozzi, and in an effort to increase community involvement and gather inspiration for the next breakfast, which will once again take place at Villanova on September 20, 2017, the committee is planning to have an Open House this upcoming spring where anyone from the community will be able to share their experiences and opinions on the aforementioned topics and to learn more about what the committee intends to do. The committee is also seeking a wide array of additional volunteers, from photographers to speakers, that could help with its cause. The next goal for the breakfast is to increase the amount of time people have to actually discuss the topics, as well as to then spread it to neighboring areas. “It is so important, especially these days, that we all continue to dialogue with each other,” stresses Minicozzi, “Our authentic and frank conversations, one-on-one, contrast with what all the TV and social media puts out. We need to stay connected to each other and keep building our communities.” She also pointed out that talking about eliminating racism isn’t enough; we need to act in order to unite and become a truly “beloved community.”

Therefore, the CommUNITY Breakfast and its associated topic of racism has been able to reach out to the hearts and minds of people of all ages, careers, and backgrounds in our own community of Radnor for many years now, 2016 being no exception, but its effects extend beyond the bounds of our township and will continue to do so as the program continues to grow. All such discussions on racism in every city and town around the world, no matter how small, connect to each other and lead to a large, notable, and optimistic step forward toward globally ending racism and “embracing the difference.”