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Greenwich Students Speak Out Against Racism

GREENWICH, Conn. – When Greenwich High School sophomore Gardy Lebon first began school, he said he was exposed to prejudice by a new friend's parents because of the color of his skin.

“In a day we all became best friends. I remember having to ask them to hang out one weekend because we had only hung out during football and after school. They told me they couldn’t hang out with me because of their parents and how their parents didn’t want me to come over just because of my skin color,” said Lebon. “That really shocked me because I never had to experience anything like that before.”

Lebon took action and invited his new friends and their parents to meet. He told them what he had done in his life and how he was no different than any other person their kids had hung out with before.

“Anybody can do this," he said. "I was only 14.”

On Friday, 51 sites in Greenwich, including every public school in town, joined 69 YWCA’s in 36 states across the country in celebrating the annual YWCA “Stand Against Racism Day.”

Greenwich High student Cecillia Cerrillia, who was born in Mexico, shared her story of how she took a stand against racist acts. She said she rode the bus home every day in eighth grade and there was always one girl on the bus who would pull down the window and yell derogatory terms at passing drivers. One day she said a Hispanic driver passed by and the girl yelled out a particularly offensive term toward Mexicans.

“My friend and I got up and we confronted her. We said, ‘Do you even know what that means?’ When she answered in silence, we told her, ‘Then don’t say it.’ Even though what I did made me very afraid of the time, I didn’t hear a single comment from her or the back of the bus that entire year,” said Cerrillia. “It’s kind of sad that it took a personal offense for me to speak up, but it gave me the confidence to speak up in that situation.”

Musical Director Dan Williams led the volunteer choir of the First Baptist Church of Greenwich in rousing the audience with songs to set the mood for the event, including “I Need You to Survive,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Lean on Me.” First Selectman Peter Tesei gave a proclamation marking the event and was joined by fellow civic leaders including Selectman David Theis, Selectman Drew Marzullo and State Rep. Fred Camillo.

“It’s quite easy, especially as politicians, to get up in front of large audiences and make speeches, that’s easy. What’s not so easy is to look in the mirror and identify your own shortcomings. What’s not so easy is to confront a friend or a co-worker for their inappropriate remarks,” said Marzullo. “I don’t know if there will ever be a time where events like this will become a thing of the past, but I do know this is a great reminder of people coming together, respecting each other, embracing differences and celebrating this great country.”

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