YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Celebration of Ohio Non-violence Week starts this Sunday here in Youngstown. There are several different events you can be a part of, all in an effort to curb violence.
In this week’s In-Depth segments, we’re talking with community activist Penny Wells, who has been busy for the past 15 years with The Sojourner Truth and non-violence efforts.
“The commitment on my part, I feel, this is what I’ve been called to do,” she said.
October 2-8 is Ohio Non-violence Week. Many local activities are planned for the community, all for free.
A non-violence parade and rally will take place on Sunday, October 2. Sojourn members will meet at the intersection of Wick Avenue and Wood Street in downtown Youngstown. The parade will end up at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, where the rally will take place. Sojourn members will emcee the rally.
“All of this is a result of Youngstown high school students who have gone on a journey called ‘Sojourn to the Past’ to the civil rights sites in the south, come back with action plans. Non-violence Week was one of their action plans,” Wells said.
Wells encourages the public to get involved.
“Somebody said this should be a march because more people are in the parade than are on the sidelines. I say non-violence is an action term, and so we want people to get out and make a stand, take a stand and listen to what the kids have to say at the amphitheater,” Wells said.
Then on Monday, October 3, “Mingle with Minni” will take place at Flambeau’s on Market Street. It is sponsored by Sandy Murphy, who owns Flambeau’s.
“She started it several years ago partly as a fundraiser for Sojourn, so there is a cost for that. But it’s also to meet Minnijean Brown Trickey. This year, she has not left Canada since COVID started, so we will be mingling with Minni via Zoom. But the other person to meet that night will be Joanne Bland, who is here from Selma. At age 12, she participated in Bloody Sunday and she has been an activist for social justice ever since,” Wells said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the “Speak Your Peace” event and reception for art and poetry will take place.
“So Tuesday, for the first time, we’re having a poetry slam, and the poetry slam is for students, sixth grade through 12th, who’ve written their own poem and want to do spoken word. That will be at the Hopewell Theater on Mahoning Avenue. That’s free and open to the public. Wednesday night, there’s a reception at the Soap Gallery. Students across the Valley who have participated in either the poetry contest — this is written poetry — or our art contest. Their drawings or designs will be on the walls that are hanging on the gallery in the art gallery at the Soap, and this will be a reception for the winners. So people can come to that as well, and that’s from five until seven on Wednesday night,” Well said.
Sojourn members were involved in taking the focus of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s events.
“It is student-driven, and what we hope by having students either write or draw is they will begin to think about what can they do as an individual to work for peace and non-violence in their own lives in the community,” Wells said.
On Thursday will be the Simeon Booker Award for Courage.
“We created this award because Simeon Booker, who graduated from South High School, came here with his dad who oversaw the building of the West Federal YMCA and became the first Black reporter at the Washington Post and went to Jet Magazine,” Wells said.
The award is built on the courage and tenacity of Booker.
“This year we are honoring Dr. Dee Banks, who was very outspoken during the time of COVID, particularly for Black citizens,” Wells said.
Also, Anthony Ray Henton is being recognized. Henton spent 30 years on Death Row in Alabama for a crime he did not commit.
“He’s going to come and talk about his experience but also his opposition to the death penalty,” Wells said.
The event is being held in the Kilcawley Room at YSU beginning at 7 p.m.
Friday and closing out the weekend there will be a panel discussion on a five-day read that you can sign up for at www.ohiononviolenceweek.org. The discussion is free but you need to register. It’s happening at the YWCA in Youngstown.
In ongoing efforts, Wells mentioned that they have had more involvement from the Youngstown City Schools this year than ever with poetry, writing and art contests. Speakers and other programming involving the schools have been successful.