Carroll County Times

Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality celebrating 20 years

More than 20 years ago, Ku Klux Klan literature was prevalent enough in Carroll County to lead a group of religious leaders and local residents to form an organization aimed at denouncing the literature and instead promoting racial equality.

The group, Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, has since held interfaith discussions, community promotions, educational and student leadership conferences to educate the community on racial issues and provide a safe haven to anyone experiencing racism, said Virginia Harrison, acting chairwoman of the organization.


The CCRE, along with the diversity subcommittee of the Local Management and South Carroll Round Table, will celebrate its 20th anniversary Tuesday with a panel presentation, special guest speaker, lunch and a book discussion.

The event, which is only open to people who have already registered, will focus on Native Americans and will have E. Keith Colston, executive director of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs and a member of the Tuscarora and Lumbee tribes, as the special guest speaker.


A panel discussion will feature four of five original members of the CCRE and original member Gary Honeman and Lynn Wheeler, director of Carroll County Public Library, will have a dialogue about Sherman Alexie's book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," which looks through the eyes of a teenager growing up on a reservation and attending a predominately white school off the reservation, Honeman said.

Harrison, who is also a school board member and chairwoman of the county human relations commission, said the organization examines racial issues of all sorts and tries to come up with new events to address them.

"When we talk about race, everyone goes to black and white issues," Harrison said. "We try to get people to understand that it's not just a black and white issue."

The county has come a long way since the beginning of the CCRE, Harrison said, but still has strides to make.

To continue improving racial relationships in the county, CCRE works closely with other organizations such as the human relations commission, NAACP and school system.

For about 15 years, the organization has held an annual student leadership conference where high school students are given the opportunity to talk about racism and other issues.

The conferences sometimes produce a mix of emotions for Harrison.

"It can be really exciting because some of these students really get it," Harrison said. "The sad part about it is that some of the racism kids see or hear comes from their parents, who don't even know they're teaching it to their kids."


Honeman said having an organization like the CCRE in the county reminds people that racial issues exist in all parts of the world.

"In a predominately white county, we need to be more deliberate and conscious of diversity issues," Honeman said. "Otherwise there is a tendency for people to not consider important issues that are typically state, national and world issues of great importance."