YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Over 150 people attended an information forum in Youngstown Sunday. It allowed members of the community to come together to speak about racism.
The forum at St. Patrick Church was hosted by A.C.T.I.O.N. (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods). The topic was about white privilege and “taking off the mask.”
The goal was to spread a message of using dialogue to fight racism.
“Listen to each other’s stories and hear each other’s lives and how things are impacted by racism. How people’s lives are changed by racism, white and black, all colors,” said Saint John’s Episcopal Rector Gayle Catinella.
In attendance were city leaders, fellow members of the local media and people from all different races and religions.
“I love it ’cause you’re reaching multiple demographics, multiple age groups. You can reach so many different community levels. It can go to the schools, jobs, anywhere, so people can explain what exactly is happening,” said an area pastor William “Beau” Fowler.
The lead speaker, Martin Friedman, says racism was made up by institutions and systems to divide people.
“It was designed to divide us. At our core, it’s designed to disconnect us from our most human selves,” said Friedman.
During the session, people broke up into small groups to discuss their experiences.
“I went to the store with a friend of mine who is black, and she said, ‘Let’s keep going to this store because there’s people like me here and I feel more comfortable.’ I never have to think about that. Being white is never anything I have to think about, but being black is something that black people have to think about every day,” said Catinella.
The hope was that the discussion could help everyone in the community.
“We want to talk it out. That’s all it is, is just to talk out how we can express ourselves. How do we learn more about each other? How can we grow from this place where we are?” said Fowler.
Leaders of the event hope that discussions like these can also better shape the country.
“If it can bloom from here and spread out across the nation, that would be amazing ’cause we can all get a leg up together, help each other up,” Fowler said.