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Unity Rally set for Tuesday

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Margie Stanislaw | The Jeannette Spirit
Marilyn Lewis of Jeannette is a member of the NAACP and also serves on the planning committee of the Central Westmoreland County Unity Coalition.

In 1997, southwestern Pennsylvania was a battle ground for Ku Klux Klan rallies. In April of that year, a rally was scheduled in Market Square in Pittsburgh, after a Supreme Court ruled that a permit had to be given to the group to hold the rally.

This decision paved the way for a similar rally to be held at Greensburg's Courthouse Square on Aug. 14.

Residents of Westmoreland County were enraged. Jeannette resident Carlotta Paige, then president of the Greensburg-Jeannette NAACP worked together with Bonnie Lewis, director of the YWCA, and Rabbi Sara Perman, of Congregation Emanu-El in Greensburg to form the Central Westmoreland Unity Coalition which became part of the PA Network of Unity Coalitions.

On Aug. 14, 1997, two days before the planned Ku Klux Klan Rally at Courthouse Square in Greensburg, the Central Westmoreland Unity Coalition held its first Unity Rally. The response was overwhelming as more than 500 people attended the rally not only to protest the Klan's message to Westmoreland County, but also to show unity and support of civil liberties.

The Unity Rally has continued every year since and after the second year, moved to its current location.

This year's rally is Oct. 15, from 6-8 p.m. at St. Clair Park in Greensburg. At 8 p.m. participants will march in a candlelight vigil over to Courthouse Square. The theme this year is “Harmony Creates Unity” and there will be music performed by Sean McGowan and the Griffin Band.

The Unity Coalition invites residents from all central Westmoreland County communities to attend this activity.

The late Jeff Holmes of Jeannette was on the planning committee for many years and Jeannette resident Marilyn Lewis, is on this year's planning committee.

“What I love the most about the Unity Rally is the inclusion of people of all ages — pre-school to senior citizens — in the planning. We have art work from pre-school and middle school children. College students take part in the programs and preparation. All ages, ethnicities, and social classes have participated in the programs each year. Although the theme may change each year, the focus remains upon unity,” said Lewis.

The Central Westmoreland County Unity Coalition encourages all residents of Jeannette and central Westmoreland County to attend the event.

For information or questions, contact the Greensburg-Jeannette Branch of the NAACP at 724-838-8146.

Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.

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