Young musicians will get a second chance to perform in downtown Carlisle Thursday night after their appearance at First Friday became the focus of a racially charged post on Facebook.
The performance will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cumberland County Historical Society due to the forecast for rain.
The performance is sponsored by Create-a-palooza, Hope Station, Cumberland County Historical Society and the Charles Bruce Foundation.
“As a foundation that is dedicated to advocating for and assisting the community of writers, artists and musicians, it seemed like our job to rehire these musicians and invite the community to show support,” said Pat LaMarche of the Charles Bruce Foundation, a Carlisle foundation that supports the arts.
A weekend of controversy in Carlisle started Friday night when local hip-hop artists Da Merge and StyleFree performed in front of Create-a-palooza at 11 E. High St. in Carlisle as part of the First Friday event featuring the theme “Music Walk.”
Chuck Adler, who is part of Da Merge, said police came to Create-a-palooza and talked to its owners after a neighbor called in to complain about the music. The police talked to the store owners and to the neighbor who complained, but no other action was taken.
The neighbor, identified on Facebook as Patti McCann, then wrote a Facebook post in which she used abbreviations for racial epithets to again complain about the music, and coarse language to describe the performers.
“When these racist comments were made public, I think it shocked just about everyone that someone could be so hurtful,” LaMarche said.
The post, though eventually taken down, was shared thousands of times on Facebook, and generated hundreds of comments under many of the posts that ranged from simply expressing shock to calling for boycotts of her business to posting her address.
Because McCann, who is a locally based arts and crafts vendor, had a booth at Oktoberfest as the controversy played out, Facebook commenters also targeted Army Heritage and Education Center by posting one-star reviews on the institution’s Facebook page, writing that they would not recommend an event that allowed a “racist vendor” and incorrectly identifying Oktoberfest as the site of the incident.
To those posts, Create-a-palooza owner Jim Griffith responded that he “admired the sentiment of objecting to her presence” at the event, but that AHEC deserved the benefit of the doubt.
“On behalf of those of us who were treated so unfairly on Friday in town by this one individual, please do not extend the harm to a worthy institution that we wholeheartedly support,” Griffith wrote.
Adler said he became aware of the post when his family, friends and others in the community started filling his inbox with messages of support. He visited the page, thinking the account had to have been hacked because a business owner would not use those words to describe her displeasure.
The post was real, and Adler wrote his own comment to McCann.
“Although I truly understand the anger the community is feeling over Patti’s post, rather than responding with anger and hate, we should choose to walk in love,” he wrote.
Rather than boycott, he called for a sit-down conversation where they could try to reach an understanding.
“Let’s talk about it. Let’s take this opportunity to break down a racial barrier that has clearly been a part of her for years,” he wrote.
Carlisle Borough Councilman Sean Crampsie echoed that idea, saying that there is more work to do concerning such issues in the borough, and it could well begin with conversations that feature “less finger pointing and more trying to understand.”
The borough’s youths may be the ones to lead.
“We should try to learn from them. I’m not saying that things don’t happen in grade school or high school, but they’ve advanced,” Crampsie said.
But there has to be more than a conversation, said Safronia Perry, executive director of Hope Station. People who make racist remarks or take racist actions need to be called out on it.
“Stop it when you see it,” she said.
She said people shouldn’t hurt a person who posts racist messages, nor should they endanger someone by posting addresses and phone numbers.
“Don’t spend your money at their business, and let other people know not to spend their money there as well,” she said.
Perry said she was pleased to see so many people of different ethnicities speak out against the post.
Black people have been doing their part — educating themselves, owning more businesses, getting better jobs, running in elections, Perry said.
They need white people to step up and say they won’t put up with it, she said.
Robin Scaer, executive director of the YWCA Carlisle, agreed, saying that the community must come together to support those targeted by hate.
“We must dedicate ourselves to calling out these types of destructive attitudes and behaviors and work to build up our youth, not tear down and oppress,” she said.
Freedom of speech does not mean people have the freedom to put others down or to use “hurtful and damaging words to marginalize individuals and groups of people,” she said. The post over the weekend is a reminder of the need to reflect on why language matters and what effect word choices can have.
Addressing these issues can be difficult, but it has to happen for a society to be successful, she said.
“We cannot ignore what people of color experience and must collectively speak out and work side by side to correct a wrong and educate re-framing differences in order to improve the lives of all people,” Scaer said.