by Barbara Sherf

Residents in at least four Montgomery County communities have received racist literature in plastic sandwich bags in their driveways from a white supremacist organization called The Loyal White Knights, sparking a Springfield Township Commissioner to hold a diversity forum on Monday, Feb. 18 at the township building, 1501 Paper Mill Rd. It will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

The most recent report of the racist material in Springfield dates back to last November, when the pamphlets appeared in driveways in Flourtown.

Springfield Commissioner Eddie T. Graham is sponsoring a community meeting titled “Diversity: The Art of Thinking Independently … and Together” as a way to discuss the pamphlets and what residents in the area can do about them. Graham was elected in 2016 and is the first African American to serve as a Springfield Township Commissioner.

“As an African American, I know that people have a tendency to want to sweep this conversation under the carpet but it only makes a community sicker,” Graham said. “This is 2019, and we need to have an open dialogue about what is happening not only in this community, but in our country. I am a retired attorney, and people still follow me around the store. I get car stops here and in other communities because of the color of my skin. We need to talk about all of these issues sooner rather than later.”

Springfield Township Board President Jeff Harbison said he supports Graham’s forum and expressed frustration and outrage at the racist materials.

“It’s just horrible. Who are these people?” he said. “They are out there and emboldened.”

Montgomery County Commissioner Valerie Arkoosh, a Springfield Township resident, told the Local the incidents are unacceptable.

“It’s outrageous and completely unacceptable and no way represents the values and viewpoints of the vast majority of people who live in Montgomery County,” she said. “We have seen some of this going back to 2016, and there have been several community events to bring people together.”

Panelists at the forum will include Judge Christopher Cerski, a Montgomery County District Magistrate in Cheltenham who serves on the American Bar Association’s Racial Justice Improvement Project, and Angela Bell, Esq., on behalf of the Montgomery County Disproportionate Minority Contract Coordinator. Other panelists will include Dean Beer, Esq., Chief Public Defender in Montgomery County; Rabbi Saul Grife of Beth Tikvah-B’Nai Jeshurun Synagogue in Flourtown; Jacob Grey, President of the Cheltenham African-American Alliance; and Dr. William Taylor, Executive Vice President of the Cheltenham NAACP, which covers the communities of Abington, Whitemarsh, Jenkintown, Springfield, Plymouth Meeting and Whitemarsh townships.

Reached by phone, Dr. Taylor said this kind of behavior – the distribution of pamphlets – trickles down from the remarks regularly made by President Donald Trump.

“It trickles down from [Trump] and it hurts,” he said. “Some people don’t know any better, and the only thing we can do is to gather information about this and be proactive about how to respond to these incidents.”

Barbara Sherf is a regular contributor to the Local. She can be reached at barb@communicationspro.com

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