Witnessing York: An explanation
Partners Jamie Kinsley and James McClure launched the Witnessing York digital site on Oct. 13.
They wrote introductory pieces explaining the initiative below, starting with Jamie’s:
Witnessing York: Challenging moments that teach and inspire
In the summer of 2019, I brainstormed several local history ideas for projects to tackle after I finished my doctorate.
One involved the mapping of sites of interest and importance around York County – places worthy of remembrance.
That sat on my in my Google Drive as I tackled the grueling work on my dissertation, focusing on York County’s agricultural past.
Then with my doctoral diploma in hand this past August, I revisited the list and that mapping idea.
Jim McClure and I, who often connect on a variety of local history projects, talked about applying the mapping concept to particular types of sites – places where our forebears struggled. And sometimes succeeded.
Jim had benefited from a visit to York earlier this year from a representative of the Sites of Conscience, a New York-based non-profit organization. Hanover’s Matt Jackson had invited Jim to that meeting. That group, among other good things, urges communities to remember critical places that can teach lessons today.
So Jim and I set to work in developing a digital platform that adapts some of the Sites of Conscience ideas, exploring past challenging moments and places in York County that teach and inspire.
Indeed, all around York County, we have found sites of meaning – places where people engaged in important movements, decisions or conversations. Yet, few monuments mark these locations.
Without intentionality, even the most memorable people can be forgotten.
So Jim and I today launched the project called Witnessing York – a digital site designed to showcase examples of social struggles and, at times, resolution of those challenging moments in York County’s past.
We live in a civil society where people can openly talk about disagreements. But we still wrestle over justice. We recognize that York County’s past is a blend of good and bad and those moments that cut both ways. And today many good people are laboring on those issues that need work.
On the Witnessing York site, we discuss stories of people who endured lengthy journeys of trial and doubt. We have some challenging parts of our heritage, and we need to own those. However, within many stories we find elements of redemption, even if that means using the stories as an educational tool to teach about possible resolutions for the present and future.
Witnessing York: Effective partnerships are the key to solving community problems
People or groups working at the grassroots represent a big hope in solving longstanding community problems and improving the quality of life in York County.
Samantha Dorm is part of one of those effective grassroots partnerships: the Friends of Lebanon Cemetery’s restoration of the historically Black burial ground in North York.
I knew she would have smart insights about how a partnership works. So I asked her, and here is her response:
“The exchange of information must take place without egos. We are not in competition with one another. The goal of bringing awareness of the accomplishments of those interred at Lebanon Cemetery keeps us focused.
“We work well by drawing on each other’s strengths/weaknesses. Or even areas of interests. “
Dorm cites the example of team member Jenny De Jesus Marshall, who has extensive files on those who served in the military. Meanwhile, Dorm and Tina Charles handle those with religious ties. Lisa Marie Nelson is also a Lebanon team member.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
These ideas about how the best teams work come to mind at a time that the product of two partnerships that I’m part of are becoming public.
Jamie Kinsley, a high school social studies teacher who just earned her doctorate, and I just launched a digital site: WitnessingYork.com. We tell stories about struggles in York County’s past and the often long journey toward resolution, all the while believing in our county’s promise.
And Civil War historian Scott Mingus and I will soon publish a 350-page book “Civil War Stories from York County, Pa.” It vastly updates and adds to our two “Civil War Voices” volumes — books in which we used diaries, letters, oral histories and other primary sources to tell the county’s Civil War stories.
Top photo by York Daily Record.
— By JAMIE NOERPEL and JIM McCLURE