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March Scheduled to Stamp Out Hateful Speech Sunday in White Plains

Photo from last year's “Unity in the Community March” in White Plains. (Credit: Sheila Harris)
Photo from last year's “Unity in the Community March” in White Plains. (Credit: Sheila Harris)

A group of community members in White Plains are putting their feet down and taking stand against the use of derogatory language  this weekend.

The third annual “Unity in the Community March” is scheduled to take place 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Slater Center in White Plains. Participants hope the walk will spread awareness and stop the usage of slurs aimed at women and ethnic groups.

Sheila Harris, a White Plains native who currently resides in Rockland County, said she the event two years ago after hearing two children use the ‘n-word’ while she was at  work.

“I have always raised my son not to use that word and it really offended me, so I decided that I would bring attention to all derogatory words and teach our kids not to use them,” Harris said.

Harris said she first approached officials in Rockland County about doing a march, but she was unable to drum up much interest. She then approached the staff at the Thomas H. Slater Center in White Plains and was able to get the ball rolling.

“Heather Mills, the executive director of the Slater Center, liked the idea and suggested we make it a yearly event,” Harris said.

Organizers decided to hold the march on the Sunday before MLK Jr. Day so that it wouldn’t conflict with the Slater Center’s annual MLK breakfast.

About 50 people participated in the first walk. Harris said participation grew in the second year with White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach, state Senator George Latimer, the NAACP of White Plains/Greenburgh, the Port Chester-Rye Brook Rotary Club, One World United and Virtuous and other groups participating.

Many of those groups are expected to appear at Sunday’s event and the Rev. J. Bruce Baker of the All Souls Parish in Port Chester is expected to give a sermon at the start of the march.

The procession will proceed around the block before returning to the Slater Center. A meet and greet will take place inside the Slater Center after the march is competed.

The event is open to anyone who wants to participate.

Harris realizes that the ‘n-word’ and other derogatory terms have been embedded in the today’s vernacular. But she hasn’t given up hope.

“Would you use the ‘n-word’ while talking to your mother or would you use that word to describe your grandmother?” said Harris. “Then why would you use that word anywhere else?”

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