Cumberland Times-News


April 30, 2014

They reclaimed it in the spirit of love and justice

On April 26, area residents gathered at Canal Place in Cumberland to celebrate unity, community and the shared values of justice, equality, and respect.

As I looked around, my heart filled with pride! I saw Mayor Grim, Commissioner Bill Valentine, my colleagues from Allegany College of Maryland and my friends from Frostburg State University, older folks, young people, babies, people in wheelchairs, people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

People who believed in the power of love, not hate. People who stood for peace and nonviolence. People who believed it was better to light a candle than curse the darkness. People whose common humanity and commitment to our American ideals of justice were stronger than differences or political beliefs.

Republican and Democrat, religious and nonreligious, black and white, old and young … we were for one short hour on a beautiful spring day joined by something greater than ourselves: a desire to communicate what we believe in ... love, justice, diversity, and human dignity for all.

A few blocks away the KKK were holding a rally. This was their right as Americans, and I am grateful I live in a country whose Constitution protects that right.

But I and over 150 others wanted to be sure that the voices of the KKK (who came from outside our community) were not the voices of the people from Western Maryland.

Reverend Jewell captured our feelings when he quoted Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I felt inspired as I listened to Reverend Deas, Rabbi Sniderman, and other religious leaders. I felt moved by the poems, songs, and speeches offered by community members.

I felt pride as I listened to two young ACM graduates, Bryan McCowan and Joyce Bradshaw, speak about why they organized this counter-rally and why they chose the nonviolent approach to direct action.

In all the speeches, not one word of anger, hate, or retribution! Strength was found in unity and in community.

Around 12:30, we were told the Klan had suspended their rally. The crowd cheered in celebration! Reverend Deas invited us to silently march from Canal Place to Washington Street, where we would reclaim the hill in the spirit of love and justice.

Walking in groups of three, we proudly arrived at the courthouse steps. We stood together in the brilliant light of a spring day, witness to the best in our community.

This was the message I wanted the KKK and others to hear about Western Maryland.

Yet when I opened the Times-News expecting to find coverage on what had been a shining moment in Cumberland history, I saw only the headlines “KKK courthouse rally met by several hundred protesting citizens.”

To my dismay, the Canal Place gathering was only mentioned at the end of the article with no details of the inspirational messages of the speakers, no quotes from those who attended, and no celebration of what our community stands for.

Too often, a small group’s negative image is the face of our community. Here we had a chance to share a positive message ... such a missed opportunity!

But light and love are never lost though they may be ignored or overlooked. And it is never too late to document what took place that day at Canal Place. We owe this to our community.

Each day we have a choice in our words and our actions as to whether we feed love or whether we feed hate. Let our community continue to choose love and light… as many of us did that one shining moment at Canal Place on April 26, 2014.

Cherie Snyder


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