Amherst’s Race Amity Day to honor late founder

  • Raymond Elliott of Amherst is seen in 2017.  FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Friday, June 07, 2019

AMHERST — Race Amity Day, which offers the community an opportunity to reflect on how people treat each other and seek ways of breaking down barriers between people of different backgrounds, has become a tradition on the second Sunday of each June.

But this year’s event, scheduled for June 9 at 2 p.m. on the steps of Town Hall, will be poignant, as it comes a day after a memorial service for Raymond Elliott, who was instrumental in founding Citizens for Racial Amity Now. Elliott died in March at age 95.

The Race Amity Day ceremony will include the reading of a proclamation issued by the Town Council stating that Amherst recognizes “the principle of the oneness of the humankind and the rich cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of its inhabitants” and that “civility, respect, kindness and friendship are commonly shared values of the collective citizenry of the town of Amherst. There will also be a performance by Rise Up and Sing, with musician Peter Blood.

“The whole purpose of the Race Amity Day is to raise the consciousness of our oneness as a human family,” said Ash Hartwell, co-president of Citizens for Racial Amity Now.

Hartwell said the event shows that social justice is best built through a commitment to recognizing diversity, and that the foundation of racial justice is through bonds of friendship.

Town Meeting in 2015 mandated that Race Amity Day be held on the second Sunday of June.

The memorial service, Hartwell said, is being organized by Elliott’s daughter, Martha Elliott, and will include testimonials, a video featuring Ray Elliott and a performance by the Amherst Area Gospel Choir. It will be held June 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church on North Maple Street in Hadley.

An effort to expand Race Amity Day is also happening this year, with faith leaders in Amherst and surrounding communities being encouraged to incorporate the theme of race amity into their services and reflections. The Interfaith Opportunities Network is working on this aspect.

Hartwell said it will be interesting to see how the amity motto, “toward e pluribus unum,” or out of many, one, is integrated into the ongoing work at local houses of worship.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.