LEWISTON — More than 75 people marched across Lewiston’s downtown neighborhood Saturday calling for an end to racism and a beginning to greater compassion.

Dressed in matching black shirts — emblazoned with the words “Stand Against Racism” — the group carried signs while passers-by honked horns and waved. They did so despite a shower that began moments after they left the YWCA of Central Maine gymnasium.

“We get to go out, show ourselves and take a stand,” said Kathy Durgin-Leighton, the YWCA’s executive director.

Saturday’s event marked the third time the local chapter has taken part in the nationwide YWCA observance. And for the third time, most of the people attending, marching and speaking were from Bates College.

“I’m a little sad there aren’t more people from the community,” Durgin-Leighton said. “But we’re taking it to them.”

Among the Bates Students was junior Jonathan Schwolsky, who marched in the first “Stand Against Racism” event held 10 years ago in Newark, N.J.

He was only 11 for the first march. Ten years later, he is still taking part because of the racism he has felt toward him and his friends.

Prior to the march, people made posters and signs. They quoted Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Michael Jordan. Schwolsky led several people to speak to the group. Some read poems. Some told stories about experiences endured by friends.

James Reese, Bates’ associate dean of students, shared his experience as a teenager in Charlotte, N.C.

He described talking with a guidance counselor who praised him for his work as a ninth-grader. Minutes later, while talking with Reese’s classmate, the same counselor tore him down using a slew of racial epithets.

His friend described the meeting and Reese contemplated facing the counselor and forcing her to answer for her language. Instead, he tried to comfort his friend, who was shocked and ashamed.

It’s how racism is best fought, and it’s where healing happens, he said.

The current controversy over Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his lifetime ban from the National Basketball Association is a case in point, Reese said.

He primarily feels compassion for the players on the team, he said. And while on some level he feels a sense of justice in Sterling’s lifetime ban, he wishes it was merely a long ban.

“I wanted him to have the opportunity to come back and show he’d changed,” Reese said.

Change is the goal, he said.

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