Jun 15, 2007 Peter Viglietta Uncategorized
Don’t duck racism’ was the popular slogan used by speakers at the Community Wide Dialogue’s Fifth Annual Duck Race to End Racism. With roughly 3,000 in attendance, the Duck Race was not only a great excuse for a family outing to the Syracuse Inner Harbor, but was also the Community Wide Dialogue’s way of sharing their message of acceptance with the community.
As children of all ages and races bounced about with ducks painted on their faces, the festivities included a marching band, food stands and free ice cream, performances by a number of local dance groups, cooperative games, and of course, three intense heats of duck racing.
Plastic ducks had been distributed to the various classrooms and companies that had planned to participate in the event, and were decorated and submitted for the big competition on Saturday June 9. The first heat was the corporate race between ducks decorated by the event’s sponsors. Syracuse University, National Grid and M&T Bank each donated $10,000 to the CWD, 28 other businesses and institutions donated $1,000, and more than thirty other area sponsors made contributions.
In the second heat, more than 40 third grade classes from around the region raced their ducks. The third and final heat was with smaller ducks that cost five dollars to sponsor, and the prizes included a $1,000 shopping spree at Carousel Center, a $250 Best Buy shopping spree, and bicycles.
Corporate leaders and speakers spoke on the event, telling why it is important to promote equality and accept differences in the workplace and in the community.
“This is the first year that M&T has participated in the event, and this is probably one of the best things we have done in this community,” said Allen Naples, regional president of M&T Bank. “When you look around at all the different faces and nationalities here, this is exactly what it’s about.”
Crowd members were also encouraged to submit comments to the event staff on how the community can work to end racism, which Karin Franklin, who emceed the event, read off periodically in between races and performances. The prevalent message seemed to be that in order to deal with racial differences, the community must first acknowledge and accept them.
“Get it out in the open, admit it exists,” Franklin read. “That’s tough to do — to come out and say ‘I’m uncomfortable with this, let’s talk about it’ — but it’s very important.”
If nothing else, the Duck Race was definitely a positive acknowledgement of the differences between cultural groups. There were dance performances presented by a number of different groups — the SU Chinese Dance Company, the Irish Dance Team, the Franklin Magnet School’s Afro-Cuban Drummers, the Henninger Gospel Choir and the Onondaga Nation.
“Level the playing field by providing more money for after-school programs,” read Franklin from another crowd member’s comment card.
There was also a tent where a large number of non-profit organizations set up tables. Some of these included Meals on Wheels, Peace Action, NAACP, Red Cross, Spanish Action League, Syracuse United Neighbors and the YWCA.
“Look at and relate to people as people,” Franklin read. “I like this one. I think very often we only look at what’s on the outside. We might walk by and not even smile, when a smile doesn’t cost anything.”