A call for unity, action

Cranberry event supports push for racial justice

June 29, 2020 Cranberry Local News

Cranberry Township area residents, religious leaders, township officials and students gather in Community Park on Saturday for a Come Together diversity event which featured speakers from the township, Seneca Valley School District students and community members. There was music and an 8-minute and 46-second moment of silence in honor of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

CRANBERRY TWP — Much like Saturday's sky alternated periods of sun and threatening clouds, the Come Together event at Community Park's Rotary Amphitheater was a study in contrasts.

There was music, a call-and-response interlude and calls to work together to create a diverse community and for people from all walks of life to create and carry on a conversation of inclusiveness.

And the crowd was asked to observe 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to mark the length of time it took for George Floyd to die under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman.

Staged by the Cranberry Area Diversity Network and the Cranberry Council of Churches with the cooperation with Cranberry Township and the Seneca Valley School District, Come Together was both a call for unity and a call to action, according to its speakers and those in attendance.

Come Together attendees participate in a moment of silence during Saturday's Come Together event in Cranberry Community Park. The event featured speakers from the county, Seneca Valley Area School District students and community members, music and an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence in honor of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Aaron Hagood, of Cranberry Township, said he was there not only to support his daughter, Cerrina, who was one of the participants but “to bring to light what is going on today and bring attention to the racism that is not being addressed, that is systematic racism.”

His wife, Charlotte Hagood, said, “It's to bring light on what is going on in the community. I have a young son. I have to prepare him any time he leaves the house.”

Diversity Network member Sonia Jaiswal told the crowd “This makes a difference. This change. We have to address racism in the Cranberry area community. We have to come together and join forces and work today to stand up against racism, inequality and injustice.”

One of those attending was Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, episcopal leader of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. She said she had come to the event in solidarity with its message.

She said, “I'm here to support the effort of racial justice. Cranberry's demographic is not as racially diverse as it could be. It's important to support efforts like this.”

Cerrina Hagood, center, a Seneca Valley High School Class of 2020 graduate, and other students clap during a song at Saturday’s Come Together gathering in Community Park.

Mike Manipole, Cranberry Township supervisor who was the opening speaker, told those present that after the nationwide protests in the wake of Floyd's death, “We wanted Cranberry Township to participate, not react.”

He introduced members of the Seneca Valley School District and township supervisors, as well as Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osche, and then asked them to go and talk with those in the crowd.

Manipole said the township had to make it its mission to make people feel welcome. He called the diversity network a force for opening doors in the community.

Events such as Come Together can be used to create stronger schools and communities “and build a police force that upholds the will of the community.”

Tom Parkinson, senior pastor of Dutilh United Methodist Church in Cranberry Township, also attended. “Change starts with each person by themselves,” he said.

Dawn Hand, Pittsburgh District Superintendent in Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, lays down with her hands behind her back during the 8-minute and 46-second moment of silence observed in honor of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement during Saturday’s Come Together event at Community Park in Cranberry.

“It's up to you to connect, grow networks,” he said. “By supporting and helping each other, you become an empowering force to encourage others to do better.”

Brianna Minnoch, of Seven Fields, said she had started a group, Level Up North, that meets each Sunday, to help people “get in the heart space to listen to Black Lives Matter.”

The Rev. Dawn Hand, Pittsburgh District Superintendent in Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, walked through the crowd.

Hand said, “We have to raise people's consciousness around the social injustice that black and brown people face.”

She added, “The United Methodist Church cannot be silent any longer. We have to lift up our voice or we can't be true to the Gospel.”

At the end of the event, as people left, there were chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Peace, No Justice.”

Eric Freehling

Eric Freehling

Eric was born in Butler and grew up in Winfield Township. He graduated from Knoch High School and later Indiana University of Pa. with a degree in Journalism. After working as a reporter and editor with the Kittanning Leader-Times, he moved to Bloomington, Illinois, where he worked at The Pantagraph newspaper as a copy editor, page designer, reporter and business editor. Freehling later worked at the Houston Chronicle as senior copy editor and the Chicago Tribune as a copy editor on the business desk. He moved back to Pennsylvania in 2010 and joined the Butler Eagle as Community Editor in January 2011.