Editor's Notes

Three weeks ago, I wrote the following in this space:

“I have no idea what it is like to be Black in America. I can listen to and support those who do."

Over the past few weeks, we have made listening a priority.

I asked Daily Item reporters Rick Dandes, Elton Hayes, and Eric Scicchitano to reach out to Black women and men who live in Central Pennsylvania and ask them to share their stories. Photographer/videographer Rob Inglis went with them.

Thanks to the people who accepted our invitation we are able to launch today a four-part series: “Black Lives Here.” The report features area Black people relating their life experiences both here and elsewhere. The first parts appear today. Parts 2-4 will be published and posted online Tuesday through Thursday.

We have recorded their sharing on video and are posting two of them each day at dailyitem.com. We are also publishing shorter versions of their stories in print.

We hope that you will take the time to listen and read. More detail about this report is available in print on our front page, in today’s editorial on Page A6, and with the package online.

The murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25 led to protests around the country. All of the protests here, and most nationwide, have been peaceful. Another event is scheduled at 2 p.m. today on East Brimmer Avenue in Watsontown.

I think those rallies have helped many of us to better understand what people of color face every day in all areas of life. I hope our report will do so, too.

As I wrote this column, I asked our reporters to share what struck them most in listening to our Black neighbors’ stories.

“The most instructive moment for me was while doing an interview with 19-year-old Sierra Medina,” Rick Dandes said. “She spoke about how being different, merely because of the color of your skin, can cause such insecurities, especially in children. She was mocked in middle school. Sierra so wanted to be accepted that she wanted to look less black. She would straighten her hair so that she’d at least look Puerto Rican (her father is Puerto Rican). ‘Because then maybe I’d look cool,’ she said.”

Elton Hayes, a Black reporter who covers Penn State sports for us and lives in State College, spoke with two men, including 34-year-old Abdullah Azim Haywood in State College. Elton said he was struck by how Haywood said he’s learned to deal with one reality of being a Black business owner that has come as a surprise to him. He’s shocked by the lack of support he’s sometimes received from fellow Black residents.

Eric Scicchitano said what stood out to him was “the shared experiences Black men Jason Little, 52, and Harvey Edwards, 64, had when watching the video of George Floyd’s murder.

“Little and Edwards, as far as I know, are strangers who watched the video separately. Both spoke about how striking it was to watch former officer Derek Chauvin lean his knee into Floyd’s neck and choke the life out of him all while keeping his hands in his pockets. They separately pointed out how callous and casual it appeared, both expressing how it seemed Chauvin had no worry about the potential consequences of his actions as if he assumed there would be none.”

We hope you will read and listen to their fuller stories on video at dailyitem.com.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com

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