Making a Difference | Stand up, speak out


    "See Something Say Something", "Families Matter" and "When They Go Low, We Go High. These are slogans and quotes with a positive purpose of inspiring action.

    And now you can add "Stand Up, Speak Out."

    Some local activists will be doing just that in a Central Penn College theater production that will surely make a difference.

    Carol Stowall is a retired educator and activist.

    "Speaking up and talking about people, talking for people who have had their voice taken away, like me and we need to speak out for them," said Stowall.

    Stowall is an incest survivor and is sharing her personal experience by being an activist and advocate.

    Lamont Jones is a former convict and is now the Vice President of “Breaking The Chainz, Inc,” a non profit in Harrisburg that helps at risk youth and men and women transition out of prison into society.

    "What I'm seeing now today with the Trayvon Martins, the Michael Browns, the Sandra Blands, you can go all the way back to Amadou Diallo. These things even when you really go back in history and do research, you will uncover a lot of injustice," said Jones.

    I caught up with Jones, Stowell and retired physician and activist Mary Barnes at the Capital BlueCross Theatre at Central Penn College ahead of their performances during “Stand Up, Speak Out: 6 Degrees of MLK” next week. They are three of ten speakers who will share their stories of how they spoke out against injustice.

    For Jones, that's something he knows personally.

    "I can just see me dealing drugs and how it crushed our communities and leaving dilapidated properties and breaking up families," he said. "That's not how I was raised, so I wanted to change that."

    Although Stowall and Barnes both say they have what they call "white privilege," they share their stories of being the only white people in a community.

    For example, when Barnes, who is a retired doctor, was staying with a black family at a free clinic in Mississippi in the 1960's.

    "I realize that they were kind of taking a risk by having me in their house," she explained. "We were followed home from the clinic one night. The classic truck with the rifle in the back, it was the only time you felt scared, but we were followed until we got home."

    "It's hard to know what it's like to be a person of color today. But, our country has 400 years, it's built on racism and this is no different," said Stowall. "Trump's election is just bringing out what has always existed in this country and I'm ashamed of it."

    As part of her presentation, Stowall will also share about the time she lived in Jamaica and was the only white girl in the school, and how that has also shaped her motivation to stand up and speak out.

    And, that's all the theater directors want from this performance: for others to realize there is something everyone can do to right a wrong.

    "You don't have to be someone who walks the protest. You don't have to be someone who pounds on doors to get people to sign a petition. There are so many things you can do and you'll hear that throughout the stories," said Theater Director Janet Bixler.

    Student Activities Director Adrienne Thoman, says, "I think people think, oh I can't do anything, I'm not connected to Doctor King's vision. What can I do? People picture picket signs and just this big thing that has to be done, when really the storytellers share all different ways we can connect to that vision. It doesn't always look the same and I think the stories really highlight that."

    The performance dates for "Stand Up, Speak Out - 6 Degrees of MLK" are next Thursday and Friday, August 16 and 17 at the Capital Bluecross Theatre at Central Penn College.

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