Rally in Mt Lebanon Against Ethnic Violence

By Premlata V.

e-mail:  ThePatrika@aol.com

Sunday afternoon, 4:30 PM, December 18, 2016. The last shopping Sunday before Christmas. Subfreezing temperatures. The gentle wind made it miserable to be out in the open. But that did not stop several hundred residents of Mt. Lebanon, many with young children, to assemble in the open at the Mt. Lebanon Rec Center in their winter gear. Hot coffee, tea and chocolate served was enough to keep them warm.

 The cover page for the April 2017 issue.

They assembled in response to Pennsylvania state Rep. Dan Miller’s call for a Rally for Unity to show the community’s response to stray incidents of hate crimes. Addressing the gathering, Miller — he represents the State House District 42 (South Hills) in Harrisburg — said, “While perhaps few in number, the recent spike in identity-based and hate-related incidents have caused many to be concerned. We must come together publicly to reaffirm our shared values and commitment to inclusion. I believe we will send a clear message that actions which make people feel less safe or unwelcome are not reflective of our community, and will not be accepted.”

That the South Hills community responded so quickly shows that people there took these stray events seriously before they become a pattern. Leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths and representatives of African-Americans and other groups addressed the gathering, echoing Miller’s central message. Not surprisingly, given our apathy, Indian representation on the podium was conspicuous by its absence, even though a large number of professional Indians live in the area.

Roosha Mandal and Mythri Sundar (see the picture on the side) braved the cold and gave a brief recital of Indian dances, making up for the inexplicable absence of Indians at the podium or in the gathering. Remember, one of the victims of the hate crime there was Ankur Mehta, an Indian-American.

It was a rare feat to see Indian dancers wearing gloves and ballet shoes to keep them warm. Later, Roosha and Mythri told me,”It was not easy to do jatis on concrete floor and show mudras with gloves on in freezing temperatures.

A highlight of the event was Pastor Jim Magaw (see the picture) from the Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Hills singing the famous Woody Guthrie song, This land is Our Land, appropriate for the occasion.

Rep. Miller sent a strong message when he declared, “I want people to know that they are welcome in Mt. Lebanon, irrespective of their land of origin, the color of their skin, or where you worship. You are welcome.” It made this immigrant woman who has lived here over 30-plus years feel very welcome and included.     ♣

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