Democracy and the Informed Citizen: A Tale of Two Cities

How do journalists, historians, grassroots organizations, and residents all contribute to telling a community's story and motivating meaningful change? What are the challenges communities face in sustaining a sense of place while also welcoming new members and exploring new opportunities—in ways that are inclusive of our differences and shared humanity?

Our civic engagement partners Chester Made and Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul addressed these questions and more in 2018-2019, telling A Tale of Two Cities through a series of programs and activities as part of the national Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative.

For an overview of the series, read the Generocity feature article "PA Humanities Council helps communities reclaim their stories."

Bill Marimow, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

Policing The Truth

Policing The Truth was a multi-faceted presentation and panel discussion that examined how editors, every-day people, and media managers filter and forward information to the public.

The event took place Thursday, April 25, 2019 from 6-8PM at the MJ Freed Theater, 515 Avenue of the States, Chester, PA  19013.

Policing The Truth explored the issues of the day and evaluated how consumers are influenced by seemingly infinite and often incongruent information. Policing The Truth put media, corporations and communities under a critical microscope of consideration and analyzed how power creates content, how power curates content and how power corrupts content.

Addressing the idea of policing the truth was a panel of highly respected media representatives and social advocates, including Zulene Mayfield, Sara Lomax Reese, Eric 'Brother Shomari' Grimes, and Superintendent of Police at Upper Darby Police Dept. Mike Chitwood. Each panelist elaborated on what policing the truth means for them in their line of work. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Marimow, our guest speaker, opened the program with a 10-minute talk about what policing the truth has meant in his career. Seasoned journalist and reconciliation expert Ulysses Slaughter, project manager for the Chester Made project, moderated both the panel discussion and a 20-minute question and answer session.

Watch video recording of event.

This program was hosted by Chester Made, MJ Freed Theater, and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

Steven Hahn

Chester: Whose History Is It, Anyway?

How do we tell a Chester history that includes and respects what is true for every group in the city? 

Across many places and times, people have battled to advance narratives that give them ownership over reality and resources. This is no different in Chester where people from different backgrounds overtly and covertly fight for legitimacy and power through storytelling.

On Wednesday, November 7, 2018,  Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Hahn presented a talk on the importance of telling stories of "glory" parallel to stories of "gory." He was joined by WURD 900AM show host Eric "Brother Shomari" Grimes, social research activist Julie Rainbow, and Widener historian Jordan B. Smith for a panel discussion on how we accept, reconcile and synthesize these types of contradictions.

Watch video recording of event.

This program was hosted by Chester Made, Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and Delaware County Historical Society. 

Jacqueline Jones. Photo by Larry D. Moore.

Greater Carlisle Area Events

How do journalists, historians, grassroots organizations, and residents all contribute to telling a community’s story?

Through a series of workshops and panels Cumberland County Historical Society and Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul explored how community stories motivate meaningful change. They discussed the challenges communities face in sustaining a sense of place while also welcoming new members and exploring new opportunities in ways that are inclusive of differences and a shared humanity.

All events were free and open to the public.

Reconnecting the Histories of Our Community (February 19, 6:30pm,  Carlisle YWCA) - Moderator, Prof. Lynn Johnson (Dickinson College) and Panelists Scott LaMar (WITF), Brenda Barrett (PA Conservation Heritage), Barbara Barksdale (Hallowed Grounds Project), Richard Utley (Utley Associates), Taydum Robinson (Carlisle Youth Council), and Carmen James (Mt. Tabor Preservation Project) explored how we remember, record and tell the story of our community and the ways stories can be used to strengthen a community and reconcile past narratives. Watch video recording.

The Idea of Race as a Political Strategy: Examples from American History (February 21, 6:30pm, Stern Center Great Room at Dickinson College) - Featured a talk by Jacqueline Jones, Professor of History, The University of Texas at Austin. The word “race” is a normal part of our everyday vocabulary, but the idea of “race” has a history, and we should revisit that history to learn how the concept of “racial differences” has been used by different groups over the generations to advance their interests. Watch video recording.

How History Shapes our Experiences Today (March 2, 2pm, Carlisle Borough Hall) - Implicit bias has shaped the lives of many members of our community; with aspects of our history often forgotten or ignored. The community’s past shapes our present experiences, and while these stories change over different generations, some things have remained the same. We listened to experiences of different members of our community and explore how the media deals with the implicit bias when telling community stories. Watch video recording.

Learning from Forgotten Stories (March 30, 2pm, Carlisle Borough Hall) - As we work to uncover forgotten and ignored stories, this panel asked how should we learn from them. How are these stories being told in our community, in a classroom, a museum, or in the media? How can we use what we have learned about our past to heal? Panelists looked into the ways stories should be told and how our community grows by learning about them. Watch video recording.

Implicit Bias Workshop (April 18, 6:30pm, Carlisle YWCA) - Tameka Hatcher from the PA Human Relations Commission led a workshop on identifying implict bias and demonstrate how it can negatively impact decision-making in a community.

Community Potluck Dinner (April 24, 6pm, Carlisle Second Presbyterian Church) - The series closed with a celebration of Greater Carlisle's past & present heritage with a potluck dinner. Community members brought dishes and desserts that had meaning to their family, history or culture. Along with a dish, individuals submitted stories and recipes that will be compiled into a community cookbook by the Cumberland County Historical Society. 


About Democracy and the Informed Citizen

These programs were part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.

We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.



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