CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – In February of this year, Canfield Mayor Richard Duffett convened a committee to study racial equality and diversity. Monday evening, that committee held its first public meeting.
Seventy-five people showed up. The discussion was lively — most of it centered around how this mostly white, suburban community can make itself more welcoming to the Black community.
Duffett set the tone of the meeting with his opening statement.
“I believe our goal is about developing relationships with people different than ourselves,” he said.
Among the statistics presented, Canfield’s population is 92.1 percent white and 1.3 percent Black. Mahoning County is 79.6 percent white and 15 percent Black. The comparison brought this question from committee member Sally Ifill.
“You know, people are calling us ‘Klanfield.’ What is the connection? Is there a connection?” she asked.
Ifill told how Klan activity could be found in Canfield in the 1920s but also how Canfield played a part in the Underground Railroad.
Committee member Chuck Coleman told how Canfield’s median home price was $247,000. He said if a more diverse community was a goal, more affordable housing would be necessary, which brought this response from resident Tom Arens.
“I believe that there are African American folks out there that could afford to move to Canfield,” Arens said.
“I am wondering why we’re focusing on people of color? I thought we were Americans,” said resident Ted Miller.
Ron Dellapenna wondered if there was evidence that Canfield police racially profiled, which Canfield resident and one of two Black men at the meeting Jeff Green answered.
“I’ve never had a problem inside of Canfield proper. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been stopped,” Green said.
Green then went on to say why some Black people don’t live in Canfield.
“It’s cultural what is happening here. So, African American people don’t necessarily want to live far out away from the city. They don’t feel that that’s safe,” Green said.
“It doesn’t matter what color you are, how old you are, how young you are, who you’re married to. Keep your house clean outside. Take care of your house, and that’s it,” said resident Loretta Bleggi.
“But I commend you people for having meetings and attacking this situation,” said resident Jim Cullinan.
The next public meeting will likely be sometime in February. The plan is to hold a workshop with Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, which takes high school students on trips to civil rights sites in the South. No exact date has been set yet.