By Amanda Joerndt
Thousands of people, from Youngstown natives to travelers from across the country, gathered in the heart of downtown Youngstown on Oct. 7 to start off the first of many events in support of Nonviolence Week.
The week kicked off with a parade and rally in downtown Youngstown to remind community members the importance of nonviolent behavior.
The parade and rally were put on as a way to bring the community together, while honoring those who have died from violent acts.
Nonviolence Week takes place the first week in October in the state of Ohio and was started by a group of students who went on a journey called Sojourn into the Past in 2009.
The Mahoning Valley Sojourn into the Past allows students to travel to southern states to become more educated on the civil rights movement and other violent acts that occurred within our country.
The students came back from that particular trip with an action plan to create a Nonviolence Week within their schools to bring awareness and spread peace within the community.
The next year they petitioned Youngstown State University trustees, city council members and school boards requesting to make Nonviolence Week the first week in October permanently.
This soon led to the state general assembly passing Senate Bill 38 in 2013, regarding Nonviolence Week in Ohio.
Close to 2,000 attendees and 70 groups attend the parade and rally each year.
Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn into the Past and head chair of Nonviolence Week committee, helps to bring the community together throughout this week.
Wells said Nonviolence Week is crucial in the world today and helps bring all people together in a healthy way.
“I think it’s important because right now in our country we have so many people using hateful words and many of them are adults,” Wells said. “A lot of people think these events are for young people, but this week is about the hateful and hurtful language we use.”
Micah Smith, a senior media communications major, attended the Sojourn into the Past trip in 2014.
She said she wanted to help bring people together to understand that violence is not the answer.
“I was so frustrated with all the violence and racial injustices and I’ve just been working so hard within that,” Smith said. “I just keep being dedicated to the parades and events that keep the conversations going.”
Smith said she loves attending the events for Nonviolence Week because she gets to see the good and kind-hearted people in our society today.
“We get to see these people who support nonviolence and the people who don’t do those bad things and want to be great people,” she added.
YSU President Jim Tressel attended the event as a speaker during the rally, as well as an active participant of the event.
The university has supported Nonviolence Week since its inception and has participated in the parade and rally ever since.
Tressel said looking out for one another and taking care of each other is important within society today.
“We get so busy in our lives and get in the mists of everything that’s going on in the world, so we need to stop and really think about what’s most important,” Tressel said.
He said bringing the community together can be beneficial for everyone.
“We all come from different places and different backgrounds, culture and beliefs … every single person is important and everyone should be respected,” Tressel added.