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United in a quest for change

More than 100 people attended an NAACP prayer vigil in Bristol Township on Wednesday night.
/ Source: PhillyBurbs.com

More than 100 people attended an NAACP prayer vigil in Bristol Township on Wednesday night.

Bucks County NAACP Director John Jordan demanded an "end to plantation politics" in the region Wednesday during a prayer vigil outside the Bristol Township municipal building.

The organization's vigil drew more than 100 people, including many local Democratic leaders, who stood under a light rain to pray for the strength to affect change in their community.

Jordan said the black community would "graciously accept the apologies" of two local candidates who he accused of making racist statements. But he also pledged to form a race relations committee that will work for more inclusion or minorities in the governments of Lower Bucks.

Jordan has accused Bristol Township Constable Bill Keyser of making racially insensitive statements during a Democratic committee meeting this spring.

Keyser said those statements were reflective of political strategy and not meant to be offensive. He used the words "you people" and suggested that blacks in the audience had not supported the party ticket.

Jordan said it was insulting for Democrats to expect the black vote. "When you walk into that booth, you should pick a candidate that best changes your life, your children's lives, your community, your neighborhood," Jordan said. "We're going to get to a point here where people are going to vote their values and value their vote."

In attendance Wednesday, Bucks County Democratic Chairman John Cordisco said recent events represent "an awakening to people's sensitivities."

"Maybe we have to reflect upon where we are in 2009 going into 2010, and that something that was said in the 1960s and 1970s might not be appropriate today," Cordisco added.

Jordan also took aim Wednesday at the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority. The organization is run Bill Keyser's wife, Janet Keyser. Jordan noted that the authority had 74 employees, none of them black. Janet Keyser said Wednesday night it was true the authority currently has no black employees. But it does employ minorities, she said.

The NAACP also encouraged those in attendance Wednesday to sign a petition and have David Marucci, a candidate for Bristol Borough Council, removed from the ballot by the Bucks County Board of Elections. Jordan said he would use "every legal technique" to have Marucci removed from the ballot. That could be difficult.

County election officials said they knew of no way in which a candidate could be removed from the ballot for alleged racist statements.

Marucci was charged by Bristol Borough police with harassment of Councilwoman Robyn Trunell. Trunell said Marucci used racial and sexual slurs during an argument in June. Marucci has declined comment on the allegations.

Lillian Frazier of Bristol said she "didn't like the face that was presented of my community" in those allegations. "It is as though a sleeping giant has awoken. It's scary and sad to see something like this in my own community."

Sarah Robinson of Bensalem said she believed America had overcome racism.

"I thought we had overcome this," she said. "But when you hear about things like these incidents, you wonder: Just how far have we come, and how quickly can we fall back?"

James McGinnis can be reached at 215-949-3248 or jmcginnis@phillyBurbs.com.