Those words lead our cover this month, and we devote a number of pages inside this magazine to play what we hope is at least a small role in encouraging an important, but sometimes uncomfortable, dialogue on race in our community.
What’s it like to be a person of color in Centre County?
Calls for such conversations have risen in recent months, in the wake of the March 20 fatal shooting of Osaze Osagie, an African-American man, by State College police. After an investigation, District Attorney Bernie Cantorna found that their use of force was justified.
The case has been well chronicled elsewhere, but in short: Police had been seeking Osagie after concerns were raised by family about his mental health. Officers ultimately found him at his apartment. According to Cantorna’s report, the incident lasted a matter of seconds in close quarters, and officers were attempting to back away when Osagie ran at them with a steak knife. One officer deployed a Taser, which was ineffective, before another officer fatally shot Osagie.
Our purpose here is not to dissect that case.
Rather, we sought the views of a number of community stakeholders on the broader issue of life as a person of color in Centre County, where more than 85 percent of residents are white. While we spoke with people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, most are people of color, people who have walked in shoes most of us – including here at Town&Gown – have not.
The goal is to raise awareness and help facilitate a constructive dialogue, a conversation that we hope continues on many levels, in many venues.
One venue that has already been embracing this conversation is the Unity Church of Jesus Christ in State College. As Pastor Harold McKenzie says, “We are encouraging people to have these uncomfortable conversations in our congregation and other congregations. We understand that it is a bumpy, sloppy ride.”
But it’s a ride worth taking, a dialogue worth having.
On a much lighter note, congratulations to Town&Gown creative director Tiara Snare and art director/photographer Darren Andrew Weimert for earning seven 2019 Bracket Awards – three gold and four silver – for excellence in design and photography in the magazine over the past year.
The awards were presented to a number of talented creatives in our area by Central Pennsylvania Creative Professionals – [cp]2 for short – in a June ceremony at the new 3 Dots downtown. Entries were judged by a group of creative professionals in New York City.