ELYRIA, Ohio (WOIO) - We have seen protests all over the country over racial injustice, but the city of Elyria did something a little bit different.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of people packed the city hall parking lot for a forum. The event was designed for people of color to share their experiences of racism in Elyria and dozens of people came forward to share those stories.
Carles Valles has called Elyria home for the past 14 years, and as much as she loves the city, she also has had more than her fair share of experiences with racism since she’s lived here.
“I was shopping at Giant Eagle,” recalled Valles. “I picked up my items, I put them on the conveyor belt and the woman looked at me and said, ‘You can’t get that with your EBT card.’ I showed her I had money to pay for it, but the problem is though that I was silent. As I left that Giant Eagle with my cart extremely full something fell off the top of my cart and it hit the ground, and I went to pick it up a woman sped through almost hit me and said, ‘Go back to Africa, n-word. I was dumbfounded, I didn’t say anything.”
Valles says she refuses to be silent anymore. She was one of dozens of people who came forward to share their experiences of racism in front of Elyria City Hall Tuesday evening. The mayor organized the forum to end what he called, “a pattern of racism.”
“I wanna feel comfortable knowing that my dad can get pulled over and not get shot,” a young woman said, her eyes welling up with tears. “And I want to know my brother can walk in public with his hood up without the risk of getting shot by…” the young woman burst out crying and had to be escorted away before she could finish her sentence.
This all comes after protests have erupted across the country in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer.
“I have no weapon on me other than my skin,” said Trent Kilgore-Hill. “I hope all y’all understand my pain.”
For many in the crowd, it was a time to simply listen and learn.
“It’s your friends, it’s your family members that we need to talk to because obviously you care,” said Kilgore-Hill. “Obviously you want to listen, but we need to reach the ones who didn’t show up today. We need to make them come. We need to make them listen.”
Counselors and clergy were also onsite available for anyone who needed support during this difficult time.