A one-day forum aimed at building civil discourse will be held in Carlisle next week.
The Social Justice Forum will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Cumberland County Historical Society, 21 N. Pitt St. The event is free, but registration is requested at the YWCA Carlisle website, ywcacarlisle.org.
The idea for the forum started after the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission organized a “No Hate in Our State” event at YWCA Carlisle after KKK flyers were distributed in town earlier this year. Hope Station executive director Safronia Perry was a panelist at that event, and afterwards the commission proposed a one-day summit that would include all of the YWCA chapters in Pennsylvania.
When Perry found out she would be the primary organizer, she reached out to Lindsay Varner, community outreach director at Cumberland County Historical Society, Aaysha Noor from the Community Responders Network and Carlesha Halkias, adjunct professor at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, to see if they would be part of the event.
Under their direction, the one-day summit for YWCA chapters evolved into a forum for all social justice advocates that included Cumberland County-based organizations and entities that are doing social justice work in the county.
“As a result of that, we have a really awesome program that has a different array of panel discussions, presentations,” Halkias said.
“We’re hoping that it’s going to be a really good space to bring people together from our community so that we know who’s there, what work they’re doing and how to leverage each other as resources.”
The event is sponsored by the Human Relations Commission and the Historical Society’s Community Heart & Soul Project in Greater Carlisle.
Varner said the event isn’t what people typically expect the Historical Society to sponsor. But the importance of history in the community and how that plays into social services has come up consistently in public events. Creating a better understanding of who lives here and the history of the issues the community faces helps agencies better serve people, she said.
“It’s important for us to be reaching out to new and different community organizations across our region,” she said.
Together, the organizers decided they would invite grassroots organizations working for social justice to an event that would tie their work together. There are a lot of social justice advocates out there, but they don’t always know what other advocates are doing to address the issues, Perry said.
“This would be a good way to bring everybody together, talk about how they connect and hopefully connect everybody together so that we can start working together on things that we’re doing,” she said.
The day begins with a welcome from the Historical Society followed by breakout sessions on housing, immigration, education, racism, sexual assault, implicit bias and history. Panelists for the sessions come from Shippensburg University, HACC, Safe Harbour, YWCA Carlisle and UPMC Pinnacle, among other organizations.
“All of these issues intersect with each other,” Noor said.
Planning for the summit brought together people from different organizations and different backgrounds who are all doing different work but have a passion for social justice issues, Noor said.
That’s what makes the panels “amazing,” Varner said. The panelists are people who are doing the work every day. The discussions won’t be the solution, but they will serve as introductions to how people can get involved and lead to new avenues of coordination between advocates.
“It will be really exciting to see what we can build off of this,” she said. “We’ve talked about it constantly that this isn’t going to be a one-off event. We want to continue to do this.”
Lunch will be provided during a lunch and learn session featuring keynote speaker Tameka Hatcher, Human Relations Commission educational outreach and police training coordinator. Also during the lunch break, tours of the Cumberland County Historical Society will be offered.
Noor said the forum will end with a closing panel to bring everyone together to explore what they’ve learned and how they can move forward.
“This is not a solution or the end of the conversation. We’re just hoping to start the conversation, and we hope that these partnerships will build and people will interact with each other,” Noor said.
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