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Carlisle’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee is hosting community dialogues to talk about race

“Thinking About Race Thursday” listening sessions will be held every second Thursday of the month.

  • Gabriela Martínez/WITF
A portion of Saturday's crowd tunes in to.a speaker at Carlisle's protest for racial justice.


A portion of Saturday's crowd tunes in to.a speaker at Carlisle's protest for racial justice.

A portion of Saturday's crowd tunes in to.a speaker at Carlisle's protest for racial justice.


A portion of Saturday’s crowd tunes in to.a speaker at Carlisle’s protest for racial justice.


TaWanda Stallworth says that growing up in Carlisle, a predominately White borough, made her develop a “double consciousness.” 

She used the term coined by W.E.B  Du Bois, sociologist and NAACP co-founder,  to describe the way Black people feel navigating in two different worlds.

 “I’m the product of the Carlisle school system,“ Stallworth said. “I’m raised in this very White town in this very Black church context that is rooted in social justice. I grew up in that, knowing that I have a set of rules over here and in the other spaces of my life, I’m being taught that these rules are not fair.” 

She says that awareness ultimately enriched her experience growing up in Carlisle and allowed her to see some things were not right in the school system. For example, she said, she didn’t have a Black teacher during her school-age years. 

Stallworth is now using that awareness to help lead Carlisle’s new Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which is tasked with hosting a series of public discussions called “Thinking about Race Thursdays.” The purpose is to provide a safe space for people to talk about racism they encounter in the community.

“There is generational racial trauma in this community. To the point that people don’t want to share,“ Stallworth said. “They feel like they’re not welcome here. There hasn’t been a spot at the table for them for so long that their stories go unaired.” 

During the committee’s first meeting, Dorene Wilbur, a committee member and Carlisle Area School District teacher, spoke about the perception of “good” and “bad” parts of Carlisle, and said that needs to be talked about in future discussions. When she first moved to Carlisle four years ago, people advised her not to live on the Interstate 81 side of the train track. 

“What they didn’t realize is — guess what? — I’m comfortable on the other side, right, and there were just so many loaded statements and assumptions,” Wilbur said.

She also mentioned a time she did not feel welcome in a Carlisle neighborhood. She said she was out exercising with her friends on Hanover Street when an older White woman stopped them and asked what they were doing “over here.” 

Earlier this year during a community town hall on equity, others who live in Carlisle told stories of their encounters with racism. The borough council later approved a resolution to create the committee.  

In addition to listening sessions, some members of the committee will gather data about whether and how policies in the borough could be contributing racial inequities.

The end product of the discussions series is expected to be a report that would incorporate data as well as first-hand accounts from people in the community, said Andrew Razanauskas, a committee member.

“But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make proclamations or make recommendations all the way throughout the life cycle of this body,” he said.

The “Thinking About Race Thursday” events will be held every second Thursday of the month both in person at Carlisle Borough Hall or virtually. For details, those interested can email or call borough hall at 717-249-4422.

Gabriela Martínez is part of the “Report for America” program — a national service effort that places journalists in newsrooms across the country to report on under-covered topics and communities.

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