YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Confronting racism in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley was the goal of a town hall downtown Monday night.
Some panelists said getting rid of racism forever might be a dream but improving equality is possible.
“Black-Meet-White-Meet-Black” was the title of the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) event.
Over 100 people filled the seats at the DeYor Center for Performing Arts to learn about racism in our neighborhoods and how we can work together to eliminate it.
First Ward City Councilman Julius Oliver said the first step is admitting racism is not a thing of the past.
“Admitting that racism exists basically gets the discussion going and lets people know, ‘Hey, yeah, this exists and it’s a problem and we need to take care of it.’ So the quicker to jump on it to take care of it, the better everyone’s lives can be.”
Ohio State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan, who sat on the panel, said she’s thrilled by the diverse turnout.
“It’s great to have young people here and to have people of all different walks of life because it’s about our future and we have to stick together.”
Lepore-Hagan said confronting racism as a society means taking a hard look at how the government can play a role in feeding it, even if unintentionally.
“We have to be aware of what’s happening legislatively that’s institutionally racist and what’s happening in our community.”
Even though the panel discussion is over, Oliver said the work continues past tonight. He hopes this meeting is a spark to ignite a lifetime of activism.
“I hope people are able to be honest with themselves and honest with their neighbors and take away a better knowledge of each other,” he said.
Monday night’s event was a continuation of ACTION’s efforts to encourage people to talk about race and inequality in the community. Group leaders said they plan to have many more discussions like this one in the future.