Get our newsletters

Happy to Be Here: Reaching for a “Beloved Community”


Chad Dion Lassiter, who looked like a pro basketball player in a pinstripe suit, was taller than everyone in the room on that mid-December day when he visited Bucks County — but his background is social work, and he is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

He was at the headquarters of Pearl S. Buck International in Hilltown Township as part of “PHRC on the Road,” a statewide pledge to visit every county in the state to “unpackage” the commission’s services. On the Road launched last June at the Free Library of Philadelphia. The first stops were in Lancaster and Carlisle.

“Let’s listen. Let’s learn,” Lassiter said, to understand what’s going on around the state. “We’re hearing about housing shortages, white supremacy, banning of books...”

Those are issues that have surfaced right here in Bucks County and the timing was everything. It was only days after the Hamas attack on Israel, and a few weeks after school board elections in Bucks County attracted national attention.

The message fell on friendly ears in this Quaker-leaning county. The state agency’s choice of novelist Pearl S. Buck’s former home for an On the Road visit affirmed the author’s fabled support for human rights, especially the rights of children. Following World War II, Buck, along with several Bucks County leaders and celebrities, established Welcome House, an adoption agency for displaced Asian children.

Martin Luther King’s vision of the “Beloved Community” inspired the On the Road visits. Originally used by philosopher Josiah Royce, a proponent of “absolute idealism” in the early 20th century, the phrase is most associated today with Dr. King.

Here’s how the Jackson (Mississippi) Advocate described it in January 2023: “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In The Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

“In The Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”

The Human Relations Commission views On the Road as an opportunity to “better our Beloved Community, create relationships and partnerships with local leaders and organizations to help them solve controversial issues within communities.”

It’s an impossible goal, but it continues despite conflicts in this country and around the world. Local people who attended Lassiter’s presentation had questions about issues they see.

Tabitha Dell’ Angelo had just completed a two-year term on the Central Bucks School Board, one of the most contentious boards in the country, where books, curriculum, gender and a superintendent’s contract were all on the table. She’s a professor at The College of New Jersey who launched its Urban Education Program, which is focused on recognizing and responding to conditions that contribute to inequities in schools.

“A school district is sort of an ecosystem where every part is integral and keeping those parts and players in balance helps the system to run smoothly,” she said when she was running for office. “If elected, I will be dedicated to helping to keep our ecosystem healthy so that CBSD can be a great place to learn and work.”

After the community enmity she observed as a school board member, Dell’ Angelo was looking for answers.

“Where’s the line?” she asked. “Equity for the privileged is oppression.”

Fred Schea, an emeritus Pearl Buck foundation board member, wondered what could be done about white fear and white anger as communities are becoming brown. Schea, former president of Penn Community Bank, has been a lifetime volunteer with Scouts, fire and rescue companies, and cultural organizations, knows first-hand the community attitudes.

And Marlene Pray, an active supporter of LGBTQ+ young people, spoke of injustice toward students in local schools.

Lassiter let the audience know that all people with complaints of injustice have access to the Human Relations Commission, which enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, property, education and public accommodations. Anyone who has experienced acts of discrimination or hate can file a complaint with the PHRC by calling 717-787-4410.

“The PHRC created the Beloved Community framework to assist communities of the commonwealth to intentionally build a culture of peace, understanding and tolerance despite our differences within the context of an increasingly diverse and interconnected world,” according to a press release.

PHRC is still looking for locations to host upcoming sessions, anyone interested in partnering with the PHRC should contact Amanda Brothman at

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.