2020 has been a year that has tested all of us. As we have confronted the coronavirus we have tried to maintain some normalcy and order to our lives, while at the same time adjusting to a new normal. In this way, 2020 is one of those key junctures of history, one where we can see the changes taking place right before our eyes. Amidst such change and disruption, it can and has been difficult to stay on top of things, to be engaged, to stay connected. But in new ways, through new technologies, and with renewed resolve, we have continued to move forward.
Our ability to do this is significant in light of events that have unfolded in the last few weeks. In our landscape dominated by all things coronavirus, the brutal killing of George Floyd was a jarring shockwave that brought us back to the reality of racial inequality and injustice in our country. The Johnstown Area Heritage Association condemns this act and all other instances of racist violence and bigotry. While we adjust to a new, post-coronavirus normal, the sad reality of racial injustice remains all too normalized. And we know this must change.
It is in this climate that our ability to be connected and to understand collective self-worth is so critically important to address these deep-seated inequalities. And in terms of JAHA, it is where our ability to explore and present the past is the most significant and relevant. It is by looking at the past that we can understand the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others not as aberrations, but part of a larger, historical, and ongoing crisis. It is by looking at the past that we know of Johnstown’s history of prejudice and discrimination towards racial minorities and ethnic immigrants. But it is also by looking at the past that we can see what progress has been made. Despite some progress, clearly there is a long way to go — and we must find a way to move forward, especially in these uncertain times. We must equip ourselves with the benefit of historical perspective and the capacity for empathy, and the willingness to use it.
History is the collective experience of us all, and what we all can draw from it to create a better present and future. At JAHA, we remain committed to exploring all facets of our shared history to these ends. We hope you will join us in this endeavor.