Bahai News - Interfaith Rally Draws Hundreds To Take Stand Against Racism
Interfaith Rally Draws Hundreds To Take Stand Against Racism
The interfaith "Banners Against Racism" rally Sunday afternoon
united about 30 local faith leaders and hundreds of others in an
unprecedented communitywide effort to confront racism in the Buffalo
The rally was held around the original site of the 1901 Pan-
American Exposition as a reminder of how racism plagued the country
during the 20th century.
"In commemoration of the centennial celebration of the Pan-
American Exposition, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on the
past 100 years," said U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, chairman
of the National Conference for Community and Justice, an organizer of
the event, which featured many religions. There were Sikh turbans and
Muslim veils, including an American flag-styled veil.
The rally was scheduled to take place behind Albright-Knox Art
Gallery, but Sunday's rain forced the event across the street to
Buffalo State College's sports arena. Yet the rain didn't dampen
"This strategy takes a grass-roots approach to stopping the spread
of racial indifference," said Lana Benatovich, NCCJ executive
director, adding that the rally took months of planning. "We want to
get to the heart of every individual in our community. We need people
to understand the effects racism and bigotry have on the welfare of
the Buffalo Niagara region. Cultural racism is very much a concern,
as well as the solidarity of our community."
Before singing a powerful song of peace, Cantor David Goldstein of
Temple Beth Zion noted that "racism -- in its purest sense -- is
horrendous. It should be eradicated." And Dr. Khalid Qazi, president
of the American Muslim Council, used the Quran to support the idea that
racism is sinful.
The rally was born out of the national Faith Leaders Initiative,
chaired by NCCJ President Sanford Cloud Jr., at the request of former
President Bill Clinton. Cloud gathered faith leaders to sign on to
help eradicate racism, declaring it a sin and a problem of the heart.
About 30 local faith leaders showed their support by signing a pledge
to fight racism on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
"Western New York was the first community to duplicate this
national effort on a local level," said the Rev. James A. Lewis III,
co-chairman of the rally and the Faith Leaders Initiative. Lewis,
pastor of J.W. Loguen Memorial AME Zion Church, conceded that some
may view the evil nature of racism as a given, "but to have to keep
saying it -- we learn by repetition."
Invoking the many names of God, the Rev. Cameron Miller, rector of
Trinity Episcopal Church, said, "Racism is a problem of my heart and
The Rev. Thomas H. Yorty, senior pastor of Westminster
Presbyterian Church and co-chairman of Banners Against Racism and
Faith Leaders Initiative, said there "was a time when all we asked
from one another was tolerance. Today, we expect more. We expect
people to embrace one another -- not endure one another. We expect
people to respect and learn our differences, similarities and our
shared experiences. Today, we declare as a faith community, we are
taking action against the evils of racism. Together, we declare that
racism is a sin."
Keynote speaker Henry L. Taylor, director of the University at
Buffalo's Center for Urban Studies, addressed the nature of racism
in Buffalo before his address:
"We have had much progress on the attitudinal side of racism but
little progress on the institutional side," he said. "We're in a
state of denial. We see the success of black entertainers, including
athletes -- the absolute talents -- and don't pay sufficient
attention of other manifestations of racism, for example, white
opposition to affirmative action.
"We celebrate the racial progress we've made in Buffalo -- and we
should -- but segregation today is worse than it was in 1935. Today
racism is reflected in quality of housing, the high unemployment
rate, the dilapidated schools. We have come a long way, but we have a
long way to go. We have made progress, but it pales with the distance
we have to travel."
Sunday's rally also included an explanation by Tuscarora Chief Leo
Henry about the Native American belief that an action taken today, if
it is passed on from parent to child, will have an impact for seven
The musical lineup at the rally included the Amherst Saxophone
Quartet, St. Martin De Porres Church Choir, the New Beginnings Choir
and the Westminster Church Choir. There was also a Muslim call to
prayer, and prayers of peace from the Bahai, Buddhist, Sikh and
Unitarian faiths. Eighth-grader Keisha Adamczyk sang a rousing
rendition of the national anthem.
Banners from many churches and faith organizations lined the
arena. Faith leaders will continue to work with their communities to
carry out their message of inclusiveness: Each cleric plans to
dedicate at least one service to the subject of racism.
NCCJ, founded in 1927 and first called the National Conference of
Christians and Jews, is an organization dedicated to fighting bigotry
and racism in America. NCCJ promotes understanding and respect among
all races, religions and cultures through advocacy, conflict
resolution and education.
©Copyright 2001, Buffalo News
Page last updated/revised 101901
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