Dru and Michaella Johnson will perform at the Stand Against Racism event which will be held April 24 at 7 p.m. at the YWCA. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Dru and Michaella Johnson will perform at the Stand Against Racism event which will be held April 24 at 7 p.m. at the YWCA. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 7 p.m. the YWCA of Van Wert County will hold a community-wide Stand Against Racism event featuring keynote speaker Demond Johnson. The event will also feature a poem written and read by Kenneth Salcido and performances by Michaella and Dru Johnson.

The event is the first ever of its kind in Van Wert which is aimed at hearing different perspectives and creating a discussion about racism in the Van Wert community according to Kelly Houg, YWCA Advocacy Coordinator.

“Julie (Shaufelberger) and I pulled together a Junior Advocacy Board; we pulled students from each of the county schools and Vantage to come together and collaborate on social issues in the county area,” said Houg. “We wanted to find a way to make the Stand Against Racism more impactful.”

In year’s past, the YWCA would go into each school in Van Wert County and hold a Stand Against Racism event, but this year, because the schools already had many cancellations, the YWCA decided to take a different approach that would also allow them more time for the event.

The hope is that youth will attend their program Wednesday evening as well as members of the community.

“Our hope is that it will be a bigger attended event,” said Houg.

Julie Schaufelberger, YWCA Outreach Coordinator, said that through the Junior Advocacy Board, she and Houg learned from Dru Johnson some of the things his dad, Demond, had been through.

“[Dru] conveyed to us some of the things his dad had been through growing up in the south and then moving to the north as far as the different degrees of prejudged and racism, and so we approached Demond about that,” said Schaufelberger.

Schaufelberger also spoke about having Kenneth Salcido read his poem, titled “Intolerance.”

“He performed this wonderful poem at the Goodwill Games recently that the high school had,” said Schaufelberger. “I just happened to come in when he was reading it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that was awesome; that would be perfect for our Stand Against Racism.’”

After the speech, poem reading, and a performance by Michaella and Dru Johnson, the evening will finish with a pledge asking people to stand against racism.

“Within our jobs, what we have found to be the most impactful is hearing other people’s stories,” said Houg.

Houg hopes that the event creates awareness, especially in how people talk to one another, as well as empathy in understanding how it might feel to be of a different race in a predominately white area like Van Wert.

“People don’t realize some of the words that they say are in fact racist, and they may not know that they are saying something that would hurt someone,” said Houg. “It’s a conversation that needs to continue to happen.”

The Stand Against Racism event is free, but pre-registration is encouraged by emailing khoug@ywcavanwertcounty.org or julies@ywcavanwertcounty.org or by calling 419-238-6639.