Westmoreland Diversity Coalition to host former skinhead as keynote speaker | TribLIVE.com
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Deb Erdley

The Westmoreland Diversity Coalition is joining Saint Vincent College, the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, Adelphoi and the YWCA to sponsor a keynote speech this month by former white supremacist Arno Michaelis.

Michaelis, author of “My Life After Hate,” will speak on his experience at 9:15 a.m. Aug. 29 at the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College in Unity.

Coalition co-founder Carlotta Paige said Michaelis’ keynote speech, “Not Hate-Not Here,” echoes the slogan the coalition’s predecessor, the Central Westmoreland Unity Coalition, adopted when it came together to counter a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1997.

Paige said members of the group hope the event will spark a continuing conversation in the community about the need for unity and how diversity can be strength.

Michaelis, a national speaker from Milwaukee, has a lengthy history in the neo-Nazi movement in the 1980s and ’90s. He became a founding member of Northern Hammerskins, an international neo-Nazi group committed to sparking a racial holy war against Jews and minorities when he was 17. He was a key leader of the group and was a member of the hate-metal band Centurion.

He left the group after eight years, prompted to begin a new life when the people he once hated embraced him and taught him to seek diversity and practice gratitude. Today, the former skinhead is an educator working with Serve2Unite, a global network of peacemakers and mentors battling bigotry and violent extremism.

Tickets for the event, which includes an 8 a.m. breakfast and meet-and-greet with the speaker, are $15. Registration is available at wdcoalition.org or by calling 724-834-1260, ext. 1109.

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