It was a carnival-like atmosphere with activities for all ages – and backgrounds.
Children of various races worked together to win a three-legged “unity race.” Others danced to gospel, jazz, blues and bluegrass music.
But the event wasn’t just about having a good time.
About 1,000 people, including Western students, faculty and staff, attended Bowling Green’s first “Community Unity Day” at Girls, Inc. The event was organized to counteract the Ku Klux Klan rally, held at the same time Saturday across town at the Warren County Justice Center.
“We’ve taken a negative activity and turned it into a very positive activity,” said Saundra Ardrey, head of Western’s government department and a member of the Unity Day Celebration Committee. “(We wanted) to do something to show that this community was bigger than hate.”
Perryville senior Blaine Young spent the afternoon making quilt squares that boasted various messages, such as “All families have value” and “Cross the color line against hate.”
“I never had the KKK come relatively close to me. I don’t support their beliefs at all,” Young said. “It would be better to be on the uplifting end of things.”
Young said she felt the event was a good way to draw attention away from the Klan rally.
“I’d much rather have people here than down there protesting and yelling at them,” she said. “. Doing that just feeds their fire. The more we give them from being angry just builds them up. Being here builds us up, and they have less of an audience.”
Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life and and a member of the Unity Day Committee, moderated a panel discussion about racial unity Saturday.
“We wanted to draw out the positive aspects of the Bowling Green and Warren County community,” he said, “as well as acknowledging those aspects of our community that we need to improve.”
Audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions to the four panel members.
Panel member Terry Boeckmann, a Bowling Green attorney, said he believed race relations were improving.
“Some of the lessons that we learned and taught in the late 60s are being learned,” he said. “I think we have a period of 30 years of a message of tolerance. People are starting to accept that message.”
Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]