Kent Free Library to hold dialogue about racism

Andrew Gaug

Racial slurs and confederate flags were spray-painted on the walls inside of Theodore Roosevelt High School March 15, sending fear throughout the community.

But the fear has turned into a dialogue that will continue at 7 p.m. tonight at the Kent Free Library.

Moderator Geraldine Nelson and Theodore Roosevelt High School principal Roger Sidoti moderated the first dialogue, which took place at the high school. The meeting, Nelson said, brought in more than 100 people, including members of the NAACP; several community groups, including the Ravenna Civic Club; and Kent State departments such as Pan-African Studies.

The meeting will be a follow-up with updates from the building principal as well as the Kent City Police Department update on the investigation. Nelson said the idea behind the dialogue is to address the idea of diversity and communication.

“People want to know what’s going to happen,” she said. “When the graffiti was discovered, the African-American community was on edge.”

Nelson sees the dialogue as a way of easing racial tensions that may exist.

“We’re not saying every kid … is racist, but we need to have a dialogue. We need to have a conversation of how these students felt when they walked in the building.”

Nelson said she hopes people will come to the meeting looking for a permanent change in the community.

“We want something that’s going to be systemic. We’re looking for a change in the system.”

But this is not just a conversation exclusively for people involved with Theodore Roosevelt High School Nelson said she hopes it will be a community dialogue.

“We hope it plays out in the university as well as the community,” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Andrew Gaug at [email protected].