- Connie Post Staff Writer
On Sunday, Keila Hall of Dayton made history, not only for herself, but also for the city when she held a peace rally following a week marked by deadly shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas that thrust race and police-community relations to the center of the national stage.
The rally, held at RiverScape MetroPark, included a march to Courthouse Square and back to RiverScape.
The Bowling Green State University student is home in Dayton for the summer. In a news story written by Sharahn D. Boykin, Hall said more than 1,000 demonstrators showed up for the rally.
We were fascinated by how a college student was able to use social media to organize a rally of this scope, so we caught up with Hall to find out more about her and why inspired her to organize the rally.
Hall is our Daytonian of the Week.
You grew up in Dayton and are going to Bowling Green State University. What are you studying and what do you want to do?
I am pursuing a Pre-Exercise Science specialization in Human Movement with a minor in Entrepreneurship. My goal is to become a certified personal trainer while using my educational background after college to educate the youth, especially in my community, on clean eating and exercise. With that I want to start a chain of charities in support of reducing child obesity.
After watching the video of the shooting of Philando Castile, a Minnesota man, you organized a rally in downtown Dayton on Sunday. In a Dayton Daily News story, you are quoted as saying, “I decided to channel my anger into peace.” Can you elaborate?
What I meant by the statement "channeled my anger into peace" is just as it sounds. What I felt watching the video of Alton Sterling being killed was sickening. I watched the video of Philando Castile live on Facebook and I was devastated. I knew I was not the only one in the Dayton area with a heavy heart.
So I came up with the idea to have a rally as soon as possible in order to give the youth in my city a voice and an outlet. The last thing I wanted was to put my peers and their parents in danger. So I changed that anger into a hunger for peace and unity, and that is exactly what I received Sunday with my community.
You got the word out for the rally on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. What was that like?
Trying to have something as important as a rally in a city like Dayton, Ohio is risky. It does not confirm that everyone that reposts your flyer will be in attendance. You kind of just have to wish for the best. I collaborated with Chris Landrum, whom already had a basis for his own event July 30, and Dae’Ja Hayden, who was the first person that believed in my idea. I posted about the event every day on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and they also posted and invited others word of mouth. All in all it was tedious and risky work, but well worth it.
Hundreds of people showed up for the rally. How did that make you feel?
It made me feel very proud of myself, my partners, the Dayton Police Department and my community. When we reached Key Bank and I had the chance to look out to the whole entire crowd and I remembered all of the terrible things that had happened that week and all of the people that begged me not to stage the rally because (they feared it would turn) violent, I began to cry because I was so overwhelmed by the number of youth that came to support one another. Dayton, Ohio proved those people wrong and led by example.
Before last week, did you think of yourself as a Civil Rights activist?
I would say no because in order to be an activist, you must be active. I can say that I have always been passionate about black people, the youth and minority issues in general. I have always had a passion for doing the right thing no matter what. I still do not consider myself a Civil Rights activist because black people have rights that no one can deny as human beings first. I am not fighting for our rights to be given to us. This is 2016 -- I am fighting for those rights to be acknowledged by our justice system.
How has the rally changed you?
The rally changed my drive. I lacked drive in these moments because all of the hate, doubt and criticism lowered my spirits for hope. But I found that extra energy to believe that better days are ahead of us. The energy from the crowd, I believe, was felt throughout every person there.
What is the next step? What do you think needs to be done to address race as an issue in America?
This is probably on the list of one of the toughest questions in America right now.
1. I think that first for racism to be confirmed as a serious issue of this country, because racism leads to horrendous acts and that hate and bias leads to horrendous acts.
2. Next, we need accountability from our police departments when tragedies such as Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Sandra Bland occur. One should not be able to praise nor justify killings and unlawful treatments caught on camera. Acknowledge that black people are on a platform of ridicule and mistreatment in this country and always have been, and with that a problem is recognized and a problem can begin to be solved.
3. Lastly, mutual ground. It is not police we should be against -- it is racism.
Dayton identifies itself as a city that embraces diversity. How well are we living up to that? What can we do better?
I feel that Dayton does very well when it comes to diversity, although there is always room for improvement. I believe Dayton should have more events pertaining to diversity as a way to get the entire community together.
What are some of your favorite things about Dayton?
This is easy! One of my favorite things about Dayton is Dayton Public Schools, which has produced very productive students. Also, Brown Street -- it’s the go-to place for a great time with friends and family. And lastly, though there are many Dayton sports, our sports high schools and colleges really give Dayton a great name.
What do you think Dayton will be like in 5-10 years?
I feel that Dayton will be the city people look to for talent and innovation. A city of diversity and creativity that is even more prevalent than it is today! I strongly believe Dayton is full of diamonds.