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Local students to teach anti-racism workshop Saturday

The 9:30 a.m. workshop is focused on the history of Blacks and racism in the United States and how people can take action in their community.
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Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past students Natalia McRae, Ke'Lynn Dean, Lekeila Houser, Kira Walker and Meri Johnson — along with Brittany Bailey and Miah Pierce, not pictured — wrote the anti-racism workshop "Be a Difference Maker" that will be presented Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Mount Olivet United Church of Christ, 410 W. South Range Road. (Photo provided)

NORTH LIMA — Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past students will host an anti-racism workshop that will be open to the public on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Mount Olivet United Church of Christ, 410 W. South Range Road.

The students wrote the anti-racism workshop, "Be a Difference Maker."

Penny Wells, executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, said every year, students from Youngstown high schools travel to cities where the civil rights movement occurred, such as Atlanta, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham and Little Rock. Students use the experience to learn about the movement by visiting historic sights and meeting people who participated in it. 

“On this journey, the students learn that this experience is not about me, but it's about people who put their lives on the line for all Americans,” Wells said.

Wells said the students are challenged to come back from the trip to confront the question: "What are you willing to put your life on the line for just like those who participated in the civil rights movement?" 

The students then meet as a group to come up with action plans. In past years, students have registered people to vote and created a non-violence week. This year, seven students created the anti-racism workshop after George Floyd was killed while in Minneapolis police custody in May.

Natalia McRae, Ke'Lynn Dean, Lekeila Houser, Kira Walker, Meri Johnson, Brittany Bailey and Miah Pierce worked together throughout the summer to research and create the presentation. 

The students dedicated the workshop to civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died July 17. He has been the group’s inspiration and routinely spoke to Sojourn to the Past. 

The students will host the presentation outside the church Saturday. Those attending are asked to bring a lawn chair. The students will present a Power Point presentation with information and video clips, along with information about Sojourn to the Past. This will be followed by a Q&A session. 

The students hope to educate people about the history of Blacks, the history of racism and how it has been embedded into the laws of the United States. The workshop discusses how history connects to the events going on today and how it impacts the students themselves as Black people.

Wells said the students want to be able to move people into action to create changes in the community.

Over the past couple of weeks, the students have presented the workshop throughout the county, including at Youngstown City Schools and other school districts.

“The goal is education and then action,” Wells said.

Ellen Wagner

About the Author: Ellen Wagner

Ellen Wagner reports on municipal services and budget cuts in Youngstown. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.
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