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Tremont Rally A First Step In Building A More Inclusive Community

Village of Tremont

In Tremont, a diversity rally’s message on Saturday, Sept. 25 called on residents to listen and say enough is enough.

Tremont High School alum Megan Rahn said the rally is in support of those who have been continually hurt and offended by things that are far too often overlooked.

“By that, I mean the racial injustices go on within our schools, within our community, within our churches, especially in this town of Tremont where we do have a decent amount of adopted children,” Megan said. “This is something that has continued to perpetuate for a long period of time. It’s not just in Tremont, it’s all over the nation and all over the world.”

Megan’s little brother Wensley Rahn, adopted from Haiti, experienced multiple events of racism from his classmates. Pam Rahn, Megan and Wensley’s mother, told attendees about one of those experiences.

“My son who is twelve years old had to navigate some hard things, really starting in third grade when this group of girls wouldn’t play with him,” Pam said. “When they would make up rules just to eliminate him.”

Pam said one of her son’s teachers was there for him - offering her office up any time he wanted to talk. That teacher subsequently held an assembly to educate and deter further behavior.

Fellow Tremont high school alum Lizzy Freidinger wished she had someone of authority there when she experienced racism from her peers. Lizzy speaking earlier at the rally says her peer’s defensive responses to race discussions made her feel isolated. She mentioned racist jokes going unpunished by teachers and peers calling her racial slurs.

It wasn’t until college when she found herself in a group of similar identities that she felt community. “Not having to be always on guard,” Lizzy said further to a crowd numbering over fifty.

Other speakers included Peoria Quest educator Lafelda Jones and Peoria Pastor Seth Major speaking on the importance of using education and religion to build bridges and combat racist behavior in America.

During the rally, Megan and Pastor Seth gave a “theological appeal” to Tremont residents. Megan said some residents responded treating the rally as unnecessary and saying racial injustice was a thing of the past.

“There are still chains of injustice on our neighbors...education and housing discrimination, Jim Crow segregation, voter suppression, courtroom disparities, wealth inequality, police profiling, political gerrymandering, and the list goes on and on and on,” Pastor Seth said to attendees. “Even if every single one of these brutal injustices disappears today off the face of this Earth… even the ripple effects of their prior existence would span for generations.”

Over the last year, Megan and the Tremont school system have been talking about what can be done more in embracing different cultures. At the end of the rally, Megan said she and Tremont schools are partnering for a diverse book drive where inclusive books will be added to the school’s library. Megan says the next event furthering community discussions will be in the form of a public forum.

“For people that are not here out of not being supportive I would just say give this a chance to at least listen,” Megan said. “That is what this rally is about… give the opportunity to emphasize and have compassion for your neighbor.”

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Brady Johnson is a correspondent at WCBU. He can be reached at bradyjohnson383@gmail.com.