Unity Vigil shows the best of Adams County

“At the YWCA” column in the Gettysburg Times, November 15, 2013
by Ashley Andyshak Hayes

More than 100 people attended the Adams Unity Coalition’s unity vigil on Saturday, standing together on the steps of Gettysburg College’s Christ Chapel in support of racial justice, peace, and immigrant rights. The YWCA is a member of the Adams Unity Coalition, and we wanted to use our column space this week to share the reflections of those who spoke at the vigil and what this means for our community.

A main focus of the vigil was the need for comprehensive immigration reform that benefits families and communities. At the national level, 1,100 people are deported every day, and in Pennsylvania, 3,600 immigrants are in the process of being deported. Casa de la Cultura joined the Adams Unity Coalition on Saturday to stand for this message.

“Peacefully we asked for justice for our immigrants’ communities that are suffering from fear, exploitation, and deportations,” said Casa’s Jorge Perez-Rico. “What we need is immigration reform with a path to the citizenship now, and to stop the deportations.”

The vigil was a true collaboration not only among Gettysburg-area organizations, but also between the Gettysburg community and Gettysburg College. In addition to hosting the event on campus, College Chaplain Rev. Joseph Donnella gave the invocation, combining the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with spiritual and Shaker hymns as well as his own words. College President Janet Riggs read an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s Million Man March poem.

Brothers from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity attended the vigil, and also organized a fundraiser, recruiting students and others to pledge an amount per minute for the entire length of time that a white supremacist group rallied here over the weekend. Once all pledges are collected, the money will be donated to local organizations that are striving to achieve the Coalition’s vision of respect and dignity for all.

Gettysburg College students also worked behind the scenes to promote a message of unity within the business community. Students printed and distributed posters to downtown businesses; you may have seen these posters as you walked through town over the weekend, as many local business owners jumped on board to show their support.  You can email peace@adamsunity.org to request a poster for your store window.

“This Unity Vigil was an inspiring and powerful demonstration of community solidarity,” said Kim Davidson, director of the Center for Public Service at Gettysburg College. “Through continued solidarity, understanding will increase within Adams County, resulting in our community being better positioned to promote social and economic justice.”

The Adams Unity Coalition will continue our efforts next week, welcoming Ann Van Dyke for a special community forum entitled “The State of Hate in Pennsylvania…and the Good News.” Ann is a civil rights investigator and trainer and a phenomenal voice for justice. The public is invited to attend Ann’s presentation and discussion on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 6:30 p.m. here at the YWCA, 909 Fairfield Rd. We hope you’ll join us to learn about how you can get involved in promoting unity and justice here in Adams County.

For more information about the Adams Unity Coalition and what its member organizations are doing every day to promote unity and equality, visit adamsunity.org.

Ashley Andyshak Hayes is the director of advocacy and public relations for the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County. Contact her at aahayes@ywcagettysburg.org.