HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus members said they condemn the recent cross burnings in Clearfield County and urge an end to racial hatred and hate crimes.
Ryan Held, 19, of Philipsburg, allegedly burned two crosses on the lawn of Kara Wisor, 18, of Woodland on Aug. 21. Held, who apparently was angry that Wisor had a black friend visiting her house, was charged with ethnic intimidation, arson, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and harassment. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 1
“This incident reminds me all too well of the case of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy who was murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman,” said PLBC chairman Rep. Ron Waters, D-Phila./Delaware. “Till’s killers wanted to make an example out of him. This is the case of the young white man who burned crosses on the lawn of a young white woman because she is friends with black people.”
Waters also said the incident shows that racism is still alive in America and more needs to be done to improve race relations.
“Forty-seven years after Dr. King’s march on Washington, even at a time when we have our first African-American and multiracial president, America is not ready to advance forward and move ahead,” Waters said.
“I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s 1963 ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, when he declared, ‘Let freedom ring…And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ But some people today are opposed to Dr. King’s words,” Waters said.
PLBC member, state Rep. Louise Bishop, D-Phila, said on the eve of the anniversary of the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, “Tomorrow marks the 47th anniversary celebration of Dr. King’s famous march on Washington, where thousands of people came from all over the nation to send a message to Washington that injustice and intimidation will no long be tolerated in America. Are we still dealing with cross burnings 47 years later? As the wheels of justice roll forward, the forces of evil are still moving backward. Shame on us!”
On Aug. 28, Waters and the PLBC sponsored the Philadelphia Action Network’s Reclaim the Dream, 47th Anniversary of the March on Washington Bus Trip. Waters walked with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Washington to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the historic march.
“It was a part of living history, and we were proud to support it,” Waters said. “We started out at Dunbar High School, the oldest high school for black students in the nation’s capital. We walked to the site where the Martin Luther King memorial will be established. So many young people were there, some as young as 10, who were not around when Dr. King’s speech took place.”