26 March 2010

Summarizing the summit

Eric Menzer had it right.

Sure, it was exciting to see all the successes YorkCounts volunteers had achieved in the past year - the work on Stay in School Report by the United Way, the effort on the regional charter school led by Dennis Baughman and Sue Krebs, the municipal officials who laid the groundwork for a groundbreaking examination of regional policing in York County.

And Lynn Cummings, a community organizer who helped found Neighbors Empowering Pennsauken, offered an inspiring message about the potential of every individual to make a difference.

But it was the outgoing YorkCounts board chairman and former co-chairman of the Metro-York effort who concisely made the case for our mission in the community:

“We were created to shine a light on numbers that sometimes we would rather not see. We were created to ask questions that make us a little uncomfortable. We were created to work on problems that one organization can’t solve alone."
In other words, we confront issues that nobody else wants. It's hard work. It can take years to see incremental improvements. Folks don't always agree with us. But we do it truly to improve the quality of life in York County.

Update, 3/29: I had a few requests from people who wanted to see a copy of Eric's entire speech. You can find it here.

Update 2, 3/29: I put some photos from the summit up on Facebook. Click here to go to the YorkCounts Facebook page, and then check out the Summit 2010 photo album. Penn State York filmed the summit, and White Rose Community Television will rebroadcast it starting within the next week. I will let you know when I have air times.

- Dan Fink

02 March 2010

One person can make a difference

Last summer, James and I had the opportunity to attend a town hall organized by the Southeast Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project. We saw a screening and community discussion of a movie called "The New Metropolis," a documentary in two parts that tells the story of the problems confronting America's older suburbs, those first-ring communities that emerged after World War II during the rise of suburbia.

One part of the documentary is called "The New Neighbors," and it focuses on a woman named Lynn Cummings who saw white flight destroying Pennsauken, N.J., where she lived. As people of color began moving into town, Lynn noticed one day that a number of older white residents had put their houses up for sale.
"Racism was happening in my neighborhood," she says in the movie. "I looked at myself in the mirror that night, and I said, 'Well, if you want somebody to do something, you've got to do it yourself.'"
I can remember sitting in the dark, watching that movie and thinking: "This woman is my new hero."
When the movie was over, the emcee of the evening introduced Lynn, and the petite blonde who had quietly sat down next to me after the movie started stood up and walked to the front of the room. And she was just as impressive in person as she was in the movie: smart, passionate and willing to share her wisdom.
And I thought that night if we ever had the chance to get her in York, she would get people energized about working for change. Well, we have her as the keynote speaker for our summit, and we're thrilled. If you want to see one person who truly did make a difference in her community, come hear Lynn Cummings.

Update 3/10: Bullfrog Films, the producers of "The New Metropolis," posted the introduction for "The New Neighbors" on YouTube. Click here to watch.
- Dan Fink