In December of 2017, Mandy Markoff and Michelle Montgomery were called to action by an incident of racism and the responses denouncing racism in their community: Upper Arlington, Ohio resident and middle-school teacher Darrion House, walking his two dogs on a Sunday morning, was told by a passing jogger, “I don’t trust black people with those dogs.” When asked “What?”, the jogger replied, “I don’t trust you with those dogs,” and continued jogging.
This incident didn’t make news in the year of the Charlottesville horrors, but it caused a ripple effect in its community. Many Upper Arlington residents and organizations banded together to nurture a change in mindsets, develop safe and open dialogues on topics important to respecting diversity and creating true empathy, and inform young students through adults on what “community” should be. Upper Arlington is predominantly high-income and 94% white, but it does not accept the stereotype of “privileged.” Its schools, library system and some government officials supported Markoff and Montgomery’s efforts, and the unity-for-equality hopes promoted and proclaimed through the initial sales of signs, shirts and stickers drawing attention to a cause.
The EQUAL forum page was created on Facebook, and now boasts more than 1400 members, including U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers. Members meet monthly under the mission statement “Promote a positive environment for our community.”
The group has helped coordinate multicultural programs in some schools. It works to raise awareness of issues besides racism, such as treatment of those with disabilities and the outcomes of inequities of socioeconomic status.
TLAN member and council member Lyn Ford feels honored to present “The Power of Human Connection,” a program of storytelling and discussion, on Saturday, October 26, at the Upper Arlington Public Library in partnership with Equal UA. In this program, Lyn will share authentic stories about her experience as an Affrilachian American and how the power of story bridges differences and strengthen connections. Lyn explains how stories as well as sharing personal experiences with racism, can help repair and sustain communities:
There is a folktale about two critters who are intolerant of one another’s differences. Miz Rabbit and Mr. Monkey end up telling stories to one another, and become kinder neighbors. The last line of the story states that when we’ve truly listened to one another’s stories, we are no longer enemies. We can become friends. That may seem simplistic, but there is truth in the tale, and hope. That’s why I share my personal experiences with racism, intolerance and abuse, as well as my family’s folktales. I offer truths to which others can relate, as a building block for communication and community.