BROCKWAY – Along Main Street in Brockway Friday, approximately 50 community members gathered for a family-friendly event that promoted unity and inclusivity.
The Brockway Celebrates Diversity Event was organized by Jacquelyn Stoneberg and Joellyn “Jo” Stoneberg, the couple who runs Balayage Salon and Spa in Brockway. They used social media, mostly Facebook, to get people involved and excited about the event.
Jo Stoneberg said that the event is geared to address the issues of inclusivity and unity through education.
“We need to come together as one people,” she said. “We should focus on the approach of education. We want a space where people feel comfortable and take the approach of positivity.”
Stoneberg said that she attended the local protests and believes that they are important. She called them “beautiful,” pointing out the positive interactions between the police and marchers. However, this event is supposed to be more low-key than marching and chanting.
“We want people to bring their families, so we don’t want a lot of chanting,” she said. “We’ll have coloring pages for children featuring professions that help the community, bubbles, and chalk for the sidewalks. The backs of the color pages have thank-you notes, so if the children have someone who does that job they want to thank, they can give the pages to that person.”
The event was planned in conjunction with local leaders and businesses along Main Street. The Stonebergs contacted the Brockway Borough Council and Mayor Bill Hrinya to make sure the event would go well.
Andie Ross, the founder of the group Project Love, helped with visits to local businesses to explain the event. Paesano’s Pizza and Carnisali’s Bar and Grill sold pizza by the slice, and Carnisali’s loaned their speakers for the event. Many other businesses also supported the event.
Stoneberg said that the community coming together for this event is something she has noticed about Brockway.
“In Brockway, neighbors help neighbors,” she said. “They’re always there for each other. Being a small town, we still have people from all walks of life. This doesn’t have to be about politics, but about human rights.”
While the diversity event in Brockway focuses on inclusion and LGBTQ rights, Stoneberg said that the current Black Lives Matter protests are included as well.
“The Black Lives Matter events are important,” she said. “This is about all diversity. “Our small town is full of all kinds of people – Democrats and Republicans, gay, straight, and trans, but we have little diversity when it comes to people of color. We don’t want to exclude anyone.”
One of the speakers was Rev. Christopher McCloskey. He said that he feels that standing up for justice is what the Bible says Christians should do.
“I’ll be talking about some of the prophets who say we should be seeking justice for all people,” McCloskey said. “That’s the God I believe in, and that’s the God who should be leading us all through this difficult time in our nation’s history.”
After the speakers and the songs, participants put their signs against the bridge and walls and put candles in front of them. The event also gathered books about diverse people and cultures to donate to the schools.
Suzane Buttery and her family were involved in promoting the event. She also was one of the speakers at the event. Their daughter, Selena, sang using the loudspeaker. Steve Buttery was proud of his family’s involvement and said that small towns like Brockway do not need to be left behind as the country changes.
“There is a change happening throughout our country,” he said. “I feel that it is important to also make sure that even in rural America, we need to realize that racism exists and we need to confront it.”
“I’m really proud of our community,” Stoneberg said. “I’m proud to be a part of Brockway.”