Springfield group forms to help teens learn how to tackle racisim

Writing a different ending to an ongoing issue is the first chapter a new book club will tackle for its first edition.

The Clark County Literacy and Anti-Racism Initiative, county-wide effort to have honest conversations about racial reconciliation and community action through literature, is about to launch and is accepting high school students and teachers to come together with community advocates to explore these topics.

The initiative is a combined effort of the Northridge Project LIT Community, the Conscious Connect, Inc. and the Kenton Ridge High School football team.

To be done through virtual meetings, the Initiative will offer a “safe space” to talk according to Karlos Marshall, co-founder and president of The Conscious Connect, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating book deserts locally. While it normally works with younger kids, this is its first real association with teens, with a goal to bridge gaps through cultures and intergroup dialogue to help move forward as a community.

“We want to work both within the inner city and out in the county to find mutual understanding,” Karlos Marshall said.

The Initiative started this summer as former Wittenberg University football teammates Marshall and Kenton Ridge first-year head coach Jon Daniels got together to discuss a book drive. Marshall encouraged Daniels to think more broadly.

It won’t be just playbooks Cougar players will be studying this fall as they will be active in the initiative as well as on the gridiron as Daniels' wants to “get together for meaningful growth, discussion and action.”

As Daniels has a classroom at Kenton Ridge near English teacher and Project LIT advisor Beth Crawford, she was a natural go-to. She even had the perfect first title in mind, a book called “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” an updated version of an award-winning book aimed at young people about tackling racism in the United States.

“This is a natural extension, a book that is accessible for kids that reflects lives not like theirs but Black, Asian and others. We go past just reading to ask what can you do,” Crawford said.

The goal is to help the youth determine an anti-racist action area, and also to inspire the students to pick up a second book and continue learning.

Kevin Marshall, older brother of Karlos, is studying at Wittenberg to become teacher and this opportunity to be a group facilitator for five to 10 students is a good step toward that, especially since he doesn’t see racial issues going away anytime soon.

“It was time for me to have a more active role. With what’s going on, it’s not an option,” said Kevin Marshall.

He recognizes it won’t just happen overnight, but adults should help conduct an open dialogue and make sure kids learn to respect opinions.

“Adolescents' brains haven’t developed fully yet and things can affect their judgement and there’s a lot of changes they don’t understand,” said Kevin Marshall. “This is a positive thing in helping get there.”

Karlos and Kevin Marshall and Jon Daniels are all South High School graduates.

All of the organizers want the Initiative to go past just this year. Crawford would eventually like to get nationally-recognized figures to work with the group.

This is just the reaction Karlos Marshall was hoping for.

“As a community, we need to be proactive rather than reactive, by having a dialogue around tough topics and set a preventative strategy through tough times,” he said.

The program is accepting applications and has extended the deadline to apply to Sept. 26. To participate, volunteer or for more information, go to http://bit.ly/ClarkABAR.

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