Community holds hands after hate crimes cause turmoil

Sydney Crocker, Staff Writer

Many people from all walks of life have come together in unity, in spite of several incidents of racist vandalism in the Middletown Township area.
On Aug. 18, racist graffiti was found on the welcome sign of Herbert Hoover Elementary School, which lies in Neshaminy School District. Additionally, male genitalia graffiti was discovered on nearby Middletown Trace Apartments.
Middletown police and Neshaminy School District officials were alerted of the vandalism, which local residents had cleaned off shortly after reporting the incidents. The Peace Center, a local organization “committed to peaceful conflict resolution” was notified and immediately stepped in.
The Peace Center is a local nonprofit that has been “working for peace and social justice for [the past] 35 years,” according to Bullying Prevention Resource director Kate Whitman. She says The Peace Center has seen hatred and intolerance “significantly increase” over the past year, and the organization has “coordinate[d] a community response that includes dialogues and vigils.”
The Peace Center has stepped in on multiple occasions to help unify the disrupted community.
The organization has held two town hall meetings in the last few months to discuss the vandalism. Both meetings, held on August 25 and September 28, were hosted by the Middletown Township Municipal Building. “At our town hall meetings,” said Whitman, “some solutions includ[ed] racial equity in the school curriculum, having a clean-up committee when incidents like this happen, and writing cards to the kids.”
These cards, which The Peace Center titled, “Cards for Hope and Healing”, gave community members the chance to write positive messages to the students of Herbert Hoover. The cards were collected and distributed to the students in the first few weeks of school. Whitman mentioned that The Peace Center received over 100 cards for the students.
Additionally, The Peace Center took part in the March Against Hatred on Sept. 13 at Herbert Hoover Elementary School. The candlelight vigil was held to unify the community once again, with the candles a symbol of peace and love.
Marchgoers journeyed from the Hoover school building to Middletown Trace Apartments, where an African American student’s car had recently been marked with racist slurs. At the end of the night, the March crowd returned to the Hoover building.
Members of The Peace Center, Neshaminy School District, and Middletown Township are still shaken from the graffiti. They continue to remain optimistic for the future. “We need to change attitudes while kids are young,” says Whitman. “[We need to] teach them how to accept all and treat one another with dignity.”