Rally to support racial justice

Local group hosts event for diversity in community

A local group is encouraging area residents to turn out for a downtown rally to show support for Columbus’ diversity.

The Columbus chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice is sponsoring a Celebrating Our Diversity event from 3 to 7 p.m. May 21.

The event is intended to demonstrate that Columbus residents care about members of the international community who make their home here, and to bring together people to show that support, said Sondra Bolte, who leads the local chapter.

Participants will gather at Columbus City Hall at 123 Washington St. and march as a group on Washington Street to Fourth Street as part of the event, she said.

Music and speakers also will be part of the gathering, highlighting the diverse populations in Columbus.

“We can appreciate that diversity and see it all in one place,” she said. “We want these targeted groups to know there are resources for them, and people who aren’t targeted to know how they can help.”

The Columbus chapter, with about 100 members, attend events involving diverse groups in Columbus to show the group’s support, Bolte said, especially after concern in the international community about proposed changes in immigration rules for refugees and people from primarily Muslim-faith countries. The group also supports groups including Black Lives Matter, the NAACP and Pride Alliance in Columbus.

She cited threats being made to members of the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana as one example. Bolte said she was not sure who was responsible for threats against the Islamic Society but noted some of its members have received physically threatening comments.

“We want people to know that they’re welcome here and that we’re glad they’re here. Personally, it’s my favorite thing about Columbus — the diversity,” she said.

The group’s members also became concerned when reports surfaced of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students being harassed in school hallways around the time of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Several children reported being bullied in middle school and high school with the words “Build That Wall” spoken to them in school hallways on Election Day, and in days leading up to the election. Another half dozen or so complaints were reported in BCSC secondary schools following that report, and about six more complaints resulted from taunting in the elementary schools.

The community responded days after those taunts with a rally of about 300 people downtown to send a message that bullying and taunting about wall-building isn’t what Columbus is all about.

“People need to know there’s love and peace in the community,” Malorie Farrington, rally organizer and a member of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus, said at the event, which drew statewide media attention.

The local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice hopes to encourage more local residents to become a part of the local chapter, which is a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability, according to the mission statement for the group listed on its national website.

If you go

What: “Celebrating Our Diversity” event hosted by Standing Up for Racial Justice

When: 3 to 7 p.m. May 21

Where: Downtown Columbus, along 4th Street from Washington to Jackson streets