Taking a stand against racism

WARREN — Local residents provided ideas and input of what can be done working together to combat racism in the community.

More than 40 people attended a recent program “Stand Against Racism” held at the YWCA of Warren and hosted by the YWCAs of Warren and Youngstown.

“Race: Let’s Talk About It” was designed as a family-friendly event focused on encouraging dialogue and reconciliation and participating in guided, small-group conversations.

Molly Toth, advocacy and special projects coordinator for the YWCA, said when people are asked how racism hurts, they said it affects employment, has effects in laws and politics, and leads to violence and stereotyping.

At the event, groups were given questions of what people individually and together can do to change or stop racism.

Toth said bringing different people together, being an active bystander and standing up to racism, not judging omeone by their race, and communicating with people who are different or who have different views are some of the ways to combat racism.

She said often in society there is “implicit bias” with little triggers on how people view the world based on how they may have been informed by society or even family. Toth said an example is locking car doors when driving through a section of the city they may have been told or seen on the news as a bad area.

“People have little triggers that we often don’t even think about. We need to actively work on uprooting them,” she said.

Ideas presented to address racism include having tolerance programs to raise awareness and educating people of all ages.

Toni Blake of Warren and former YWCA employee, said there needs to be a “dismantling of the negative rumors in the community” and addressing the many positives the city has to offer such as summer programs and events.

An idea was proposed to hold a community-wide diversity festival to bring all cultures, nationalities and groups together to showcase and celebrate Warren’s diversity in its customs, traditions and foods.

“We would like to see people get engaged civically and share commonalities. People from all different backgrounds can come together to get to know one another and find common ground and ways of being more alike,” Toth said.

Denise Rising of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership said holding more town hall-style meetings gets people together to share ideas and concerns. Those at the event had the opportunity to take a pledge to stand against racism by signing a large wall sign.

Those attending agreed educating and encouraging dialogue is the way to address racism issues.

“The YWCA has always had a bold mission to eliminate racism and empower women. Stand Against Racism is one of the ways we connect with our community to encourage others to join us on that mission,” said YWCA Youngstown CEO and President Leah Merritt.

Also held recently in Youngstown was Youngstown City Schools’ Visual and Performing Arts Program for “A Harlem Renaissance Experience.” Students performed selections from writers and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance.

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