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Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality present at city council meeting

| January 14, 2021

With so much chaos surrounding the presidential election and the riot that occurred at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, Mayor Mills took time at the Jan.11 city council meeting to address the energy exerted throughout the nation. Mills said, “Basically, I look at it as definitely an energy waster to think about what is going on somewhere when we can put that energy here, and I just want the community to buy into loving their neighbor and getting through COVID. We can worry about here and put our energy here, and that’s what I invite everyone to do.”

Mills went on to say, “It takes more than one person, it takes more than one council, it really takes everyone as a community to make this place the best place. I just want to invite people to get involved in anything positive and let’s start moving in the next direction.”

During the meeting, co-founders for Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality, Lucy Malenke and Javanna Ramsey presented to council in an effort to gain support and request city council representation on the coalition.

Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality is a non-partisan, grassroots community group dedicated to bringing people together across racial divides and advocating for racial justice in Coshocton County. They hope to strengthen the community by creating opportunities for dialogue and relationship building, educating people about the ways racism affects everyone, and holding local government and police accountable.

During their presentation, it was shared that a KKK rally was held in Coshocton in 1993 and that a Black Lives Matter protest occurred in Coshocton in 2020. “I’ve watched and I’ve witnessed racial divides right here in our own town, so I jumped at the opportunity to create awareness and unity in a place that I love,” said Ramsey who is a 2014 graduate of Coshocton High School and one of the organizers of the BLM protest.

Malenke informed the council of an 1885 lynching of a black man named Henry Howard that occurred in Coshocton County. Howard was lynched after he reportedly pled guilty of raping one woman and assaulting another woman near West Lafayette. “Because we only have newspaper reports from that time period to go on, and because those tended to be sensationalized and tended to promote the racial stereotypes that were popular in that time, it’s hard to know exactly what happened” said Malenke.

“But, what we do know from piecing together those accounts is that there were two young white women outside of West Lafayette who were assaulted, one was raped, and in the aftermath of that Henry Howard was pursued by a group of white men, accused of the crime and thrown in jail. He had come to this area that day, I believe, seeking work in the mines. The day after he was put in jail, an angry mob descended into downtown and broke into the jail, they dragged him outside and they hung him in the court square after forcing a confession. We know that parts of his body were taken as souvenirs, one of his toes sat, pickled in a mason jar in a Coshocton jewelry store well into the 20th century,” Malenke said.

Malenke went on to explain it is important “for all people who live in Coshocton County to know the story because knowing our history helps us understand where we are today and who we want to be today. We think that acknowledging this history can facilitate healing in a community that has been wounded by racism. And, we think that talking about this history can create opportunities for deeper understanding and empathy and connection between people of different races and perspectives, which is something we desperately need as a community and as a country right now.”

Ramsey shared that over the last few months they have been hard at work putting together a coalition of individuals and organizations to kind of help organize, plan and promote events.  Ramsey informed the council the group has been recruiting and communicating with people through their Facebook group, Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality.

“What we are hoping to gain out of all of this is basically just recognition of our history, a historical marker at the Coshocton County Court House, an exhibit or display at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum. Other things that we look forward to is story exchanges with the community, educational events, a Juneteenth celebration to not only celebrate different cultures but to also celebrate Henry Howard because unfortunately that was the day that he was murdered too, a panel to dialogue on race and racism in Coshocton County, and a high school essay contest,” Ramsey said.

For more information regarding Coshoctonians for Peace and Equality, Ramsey can be contacted by email at [email protected], and Malenke can be reached by email at [email protected].

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