Student confronts York’s inequalities in Goodridge Freedom Center display
Greta Miller ’22 was sitting in a discussion last winter when she first heard about York’s race revolts. She remembers feeling shocked that it happened just 50 years ago, and that even some people who are from the community hadn’t heard of it. Then an idea popped into her head: What if she created a series of posters explaining the race revolts and why the community needed more empathy?
That idea sparked four posters that she designed in a class for Graham Innovation Scholars at York College of Pennsylvania. As a Graham Scholar, Greta and other students partnered with neighbors in the community to do project-based work. Last spring, they partnered with the William C. Goodridge Freedom Center and Underground Railroad Museum, one of the few African American cultural sites nationwide.
“I created a series of posters explaining why it’s so important to take the time to understand our history, understand other people’s perspectives, and the importance of having empathy regarding the community, your past, and your neighbors,” Greta says.
The four posters described the racial tension and unrest that left two people dead, dozens more injured, and properties destroyed during the 1969 race revolts in York. Over Winter Break, Greta poured hours of research into creating four extra posters focused on overall racial tension in the 1960s and how some of the same issues exist today. She even branched out to describe historical trauma, which is multigenerational physical and emotional trauma experienced by cultural, racial, and ethnic groups.
Discovering the power of empathy
Greta’s posters and accompanying photos are on display for the “In Touch With Our History” exhibit at the Goodridge Freedom Center as part of an observance of Black History Month. Her four new posters also include recent events, such as the 2018 Grandview Golf Course incident, when the owner called the police on five African American golfers.
Greta knows events like this and the race revolts are sensitive topics, but she hopes the posters will create a welcoming space that sparks conversation. She says the exhibit has already generated discussions about how to move York forward.
“I’m not a person of color. I’m not from York, and I have no concept of the suffering that these people who live here go through and how our lives are different,” says Greta, who is from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. “But I don’t think it holds me back from having empathy for them and wanting to do what I can to improve the quality of life for everyone.”
Greta believes the next step is getting more people to visit the Goodridge Freedom Center, as she doesn’t think it gets the attention it deserves. She also encourages people to stay educated and read multiple news sources while paying attention to the larger world. When people do that, Greta says, “you can start to have more empathy and build connections with people and really get a better understanding of your own community.”
Greta sees her work as an extension of her Hospitality Management major. She loves interacting with people and is passionate about communities investing in their residents. To her, it’s important for people to volunteer their time and energy to educate others and make an impact in their hometowns.
“I think that we all have a little part to play, and I hope that this is just a small step in the right direction for me because there’s a lot more I want to do,” she says.
Next, Greta wants to focus her time on getting people registered to vote and is considering volunteering for the 2020 Census. After graduating from York College of Pennsylvania, she hopes to work at the Yorktowne Hotel and stay in York for a few more years. No matter where she ends up, though, she wants to play a role in her community.
“I think community is kind of what drives me,” Greta says. “And as a Hospitality major, having a restaurant or having a place of business and employing people and participating in your local commerce, you have to have some awareness of what’s going on in your community and some awareness of people who live in your community and empathy for them.”
See Greta’s posters on display for the entire month of February at the Goodridge Freedom Center. Visitors are encouraged to leave a word behind that captures the experience, which will be used for a future exhibit.