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Part II: How we can further disrupt discrimination in York County

A diverse group of young people meet in a breakout group in the Bond Building as part of the York, Pa., Charrette in 1970. The Charrette is credited with helping stop rioting for a third year that summer and spawning housing and health organizations needed in the York community for decades. Also of interest: Part I: How we can further disrupt discrimination in York County.

This post was adapted from my remarks at the York City Human Relations Commission’s 30th annual Frederick D. Holliday Celebration last week.

The evening was divided into perspectives on the past, present and future. I carved up my speech exploring York County’s attitudes toward race in the same manner.

Last post, the past. Today, the present:

Main point: From these difficult beginnings, decades passed until a series of events in the late 1960s and early 1970s broke this pattern of certain shared values with the South. Some of these events that focused attention on racial discrimination and bias were painful; others remarkable. Figure out how to retaliate when an employer displays bias to protect your rights.

These events – which I call disruptors – included: the Riots of 1968-69, enlightened mayoral leaders in the 1970s and 1980s, and new, fresh legs from executives of businesses increasingly owned by out-of-town interests.

Other disruptors: Tropical Storm Agnes damaged some of the dilapidated housing stock that inflamed the racial scene, and improvements along the Codorus Creek and attracted newcomers to the city.

Further, York College started offering four-year degrees. Up to that point, York County had not played host to a four-year institution, which typically fosters change in a community.

But the main disruptor in those years was the success of the York Charrette, an eight-day community forum in which diverse parts of the community met and talked.

Quotable: From Raul Urrunaga, in 2011’s “Journal of York County Heritage”: “York showed the willingness to engage in ‘civic therapy’ to put an end to two summers of race riots and collectively move toward solutions to underlying social problems in the late’60s and early’70s.”

Impact: The Charrette prompted the organization of the Housing Council, the York Housing Development Corporation and the York Health Organization, according to Urrunaga’s research.

The City Human Relations Commission was subsequently formed to independently investigate discrimination claims, necessary because the city was now accepting federal housing dollars.

People of color and women increasingly were elected or appointed to leadership positions in the city and county. For example, Frederick D. Holliday became the city school district’s first black superintendent, and Prothonotary Mattie Chapman was the first black person elected to a county-wide office.

Today, the city has a black mayor, Kim Bracey, and city school superintendent, Deborah Wortham, and a black judge, Chuck Patterson, serves on the county bench. (Judge Patterson’s passed away today, Nov. 21.)

Next post: The future

Also of interest

York County, Pa.’s, ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers’ Mural
Images capture hope for racial harmony in York County.
York Charrette or charade?.
York, Pa.: ‘It’s a midsize city with an interesting history’.


*Photo courtesy of George Shumway’s, ‘The York Gazette.’

Edited, 11/21/11