2nd Annual Community Gathering to Explore the Declaration of Independence’s Meaning within Chester County Communities 

Former Senator Andy Dinniman is pictured addressing those attending the first Annual Community Gathering held at West Chester University in the spring of 2023. Dinniman is pictured standing next to a photo of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, orator and statesman.As the U.S. prepares to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence in 2026, the Dinniman Together Fund at West Chester University is coordinating a series of citizen discussions around the Declaration’s meaning for communities that comprise Chester County. The Second Annual Senator Andy Dinniman Community Gathering for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity will draw citizens from throughout the County to engage in meaningful conversations on Saturday, April 27, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., in the Sciences & Engineering Center and The Commons, located on West Chester University’s campus at 155 University Avenue, West Chester. Greetings will be delivered by Mayor of West Chester Lillian DeBaptiste. The discussion is open to the community free of charge.

Intentional citizen discussion groups will explore ways to utilize their diverse stories as vehicles to foster increased understanding within the greater community; actionable outcomes will be reported out by the groups during the program. Aided by the receipt of a $30,000 fellowship from the New America Foundation, Community Gathering initiative member Deb Ciamacca has interviewed numerous individuals in the Chester County community about what the Declaration has meant for their lives, as well as their hopes and dreams for America. The region’s first-of-its-kind video, entitled “The Stories of a Diverse Chester County,” will premier during the morning session.

“Filming and interviewing people from every corner of Chester County and talking to them about their reflections on America and the Declaration, has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life,” said Ciamacca. “I have heard the stories of veterans, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, African Americans, young, and old…. I have been touched by what they have had to say.

“As we approach the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I believe it is imperative for each of us to reflect on where we are as a country, taking pride in our achievements and our successes, but also reckoning with historical wrongs, so that we can build a better, more inclusive America.”

The interviews featured in the video have been filmed at numerous settings throughout Chester County, including the Main Line Chinese Cultural Center; the Phoenixville Presbyterian Church with African American and Latino residents; the Coatesville Islamic Mosque; Kesher Israel Congregation; the Coatesville YMCA with members of the Coatesville NAACP; West Chester University; and Lincoln University.  

“Our goal is to weave all the stories together into a narrative that helps to tell the story of Chester County and of America, as we aspire to strengthen a democracy that includes everyone and listens to every voice,” said Dinniman, who was inspired to found the project and the Together Endowment to enhance community inclusivity.

With additional interviews slated to be incorporated in 2025 and 2026, “The Stories of a Diverse Chester County” will be a permanent legacy of Chester County’s celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  The videos will be housed in the West Chester University Special Collections and Archives department of F.H.G. Library.

“Since its establishment, the Community Gathering has created partnerships with the Chester County Community Foundation, the Greater Brandywine YMCA’s, as well as the People’s Light and Theatre Community program, which presents the stories of diverse people in Chester County,” said Dinniman. “We are also grateful for the leadership of Dr. Tracey Robinson, vice president & chief diversity and inclusion officer at West Chester University, in the initiative for combining the important work of diversity, equity, and inclusion on the University’s campus as well as within the larger community, so we can learn from each other.” 

About The Together Endowment

The Second Annual Senator Andy Dinniman Community Gathering for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity is brought to Chester County by the Dinniman Together Fund: Diversity Inclusion & Equity Endowment at West Chester University (WCU). The first Community Gathering was held in the spring of 2023 on the University’s campus.

The focus of the fund is to promote diversity and equity through a renewed emphasis on our common humanity. More than a century following the final public speech of Frederick Douglass on the campus of West Chester State Normal School on February 1, 1895, the Dinniman Together Fund continues the conversation by providing resources to support an annual gathering where the research and teaching knowledge of WCU faculty (past and present) may be shared with the greater Chester County community.

The Together Endowment is, in part, designed to build on Dr. DeBaptiste’s generosity by taking the legacy of Douglass from the campus into the greater community. Former State Senator Andrew E. Dinniman raised more than $100,000 to create the Dinniman Together Fund: Diversity Inclusion & Equity Endowment at West Chester University (WCU.


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