Retracing the history of the Boyertown Area Unity Walk as event approaches for 11th year

File photo by Rebecca Blanchard
File photo by Rebecca Blanchard
File photo by Rebecca Blanchard
The scene at the 10th Annual Boyertown Area Unity Walk.
File photo by Rebecca Blanchard The scene at the 10th Annual Boyertown Area Unity Walk.

Hate comes in many shapes and sizes, taking various names along the way—and one community has made it clear that it is ‘no place for hate.’

Community members are invited to join together and walk in unity for the 11th year in a row on Saturday, Oct. 11.

This Boyertown Area Times reporter recently had the opportunity to speak with Terry Wade, a teacher at Boyertown Elementary and one of the initiators of the Boyertown Area Unity Walk.

According to Wade, the walk’s establishment was as a reaction to a cross burning incident which occurred in 2003. The first walk was held the following year to promote tolerance. Approximately 200 people attended.

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“Don’t let our community be known for that,” he said in reference to the cross-burning, adding that a community can “…sometimes be defined by the lowest denominator.”

Now, 11 years later, Wade says the event is a “reinforcement” of the community’s attitude and has since been tied into the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place For Hate initiative at Boyertown School District.

Wade began telling the story of how all of this began. He recalled a time when he witnessed folks handing out Ku Klux Klan literature in the streets of Boyertown, and the strong emotions that he had to contain while passing by.

A friendship he developed with an African American man from Pottstown led him to seek out the Unity Coalition. During this time, alongside his friend, Wade became privy to various treatments and attitudes. Through the organization, Wade and other community members were able to organize the first Unity Walk.

“Spread caring attitudes towards one another—not message of hate,” he said. “We’ve grown a bit with that.”

He noted the school district’s efforts, including No Place For Hate.

Last year, coinciding with the walk’s 10th anniversary, young local country singer Stephanie Grace promoted and shot footage for her song “Loser,” addressing and raising awareness for the issue of bullying.

“We’re trying our best,” Wade said in regards to the issue of bullying. “[You] can’t eliminate it, can’t control people—just like you can’t control racism.”

As far as he can tell, bullying still exists and it has since the start of time.

“Growing up has never been easy. Everyone tries to do what we can,” said Wade, speaking briefly about facing bullying in the classroom. He also noted cyber bullying as another issue. “We can overcome this—don’t let others define who you are.”

Wade has served as a teacher within the district for 35 years and is a 1971 graduate of Boyertown. He attends every graduation to see his students off.

“I believe my colleagues feel the same way—teach for year, care for a lifetime,” he said. “I feel blessed to be in Boyertown,” admitting that he never expected to stick around the area when he was growing up.

According to Wade, the Unity Walk is about “Standing up, saying: ‘This is what my community is all about.’”

All schools within the Boyertown School District, as well of members of the surround community, are encouraged to attend the 11th Annual Unity Walk on Saturday. This event coincides with the borough’s Turning Leaf Fall Festival at the Boyertown Community Park.

Wade looks forward to this year’s walk, “It’s always neat to see this mass of humanity come together.”

Today, the Unity Walk is hosted by the United Way of Boyertown.

About the Author

Rebecca Blanchard

Rebecca won't hesitate to tell you that she has enjoyed writing throughout her entire life. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she graduated from the professional writing program of Kutztown University in 2012. Rebecca joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in July of 2012 as editor of The Boyertown Area Times following her internship with the newspaper. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling and cooking gluten-free foods. Reach the author at rblanchard@berksmontnews.com or follow Rebecca on Twitter: @boyertowntimes.