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Erie's Horton family shares program at the monastery

Erie's Horton family shares program at the monastery

Four members of Erie's Horton family shared song and history with sisters and guests in the monastery chapel last month. The Benedictine sisters were privileged to host Cheryl Horton-Jong as Sojourner Truth, her sister Denise Horton, a member of the political action committee for NAACP, and sister Valerie Horton Brown, a singer who recently returned to the Erie area, and their brother Gary Horton.

"Those of us who were present were still talking about the program two days later," said Sister Audrey Steff, who coordinated the visit and the programming. “I’ve already invited them back!”

The four siblings, descendants of the late Howard and Mildred “Millie” Horton, who were pioneering leaders of the local civil rights movement, reflected with those gathered at the monastery on generations of political activism with the NAACP in Erie. For decades the family has been working to make Erie a more inclusive city.

Cheryl has been doing dramatizations of Sojourner Truth for many years. Gary is no stranger to the Erie Benedictines, he and the sisters and oblates join together for many peaceful and justice actions in our community. Denise gave a very informative history of her family and the African Americans in Erie going back to the 1800s when some of the earliest African Americans bought homes in the lower West End, and how those properties were taken away in time. She spoke of many of the hardships that her parents endured because of their skin color, but that both her parents were strong believers in non-violence and equality. They passed this legacy down to their children and it is now being passed on to their grandchildren. In closing, the three sisters sang two gospel spirituals. "The evening was a powerful witness to our shared gospel values in the city of Erie," said Sister Ann Muczynski, Director of Formation for the monastic community. “The Horton family and the Benedictine family both arrived in Erie in the 1800s and we continue to work together to bring nonviolence and equality to our city.”