YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — On Saturday, members of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past held a special park bench dedication ceremony to honor those who have lost their lives to violence in the Valley.
The decision for the park bench was inspired by the murder of an Ursuline High School student in 2021.
The inscription can now be seen on a bench that sits at the Glenwood Community Park: “Peacefully remember those whose lives were taken by violence.”
“There’s no specific name on there because we are honoring everyone, and many times they are the forgotten ones,” said Penny Wells, executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past.
After visiting various civil rights sites in 2021 and learning lessons about hope, compassion and non-violence, the group created an action plan to implement in to its members’ own schools and community.
“Non-violence action means that if you really believe in non-violence, it doesn’t mean just doing nothing — it means you are actively doing something to bring about social justice,” Wells said.
Members of Sojourn to the Past felt a bench would serve well at a public park like Glenwood, especially for young people to see.
“Most of them will probably sit on this bench,” said Natalia McRae, a member of Sojourn to the Past. “When they read this bench is dedicated to those lives that have been lost in response to violence, they will see that stopping violence is important and that a group in Youngstown is taking initiative.”
“It’s not just about young people, because some of the people who’ve been murdered are older,” Wells said. “But we need to find alternative ways to deal with justice, not just through violence.”
Members with Sojourn to the Past said taking action against violence is valuable everywhere.
“Just spread love, welcome everyone show, everyone that this isn’t just a South Side thing or a Youngstown thing — this is an everyone thing, this is something that should take place all over the world,” McRae said.
Due to supply chain issues, the bench did not arrive until last October. The decision was made to wait until spring to install the bench.