New HRC brochure will feature Troy’s African-American historical sites


By Matt Clevenger

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TROY — Members of the city of Troy’s Human Relations Commission are working to create a new brochure highlighting the city’s African-American historical sites, which will be available at City Hall and distributed throughout the community.

“This is really nice that our city has taken a step forward to put something like this out, and to make our community more inclusive and a little better for all those who may walk through it,” HRC member Marvin Major Sr. said. “I think this is a really good stepping stone for the rest of the work that the HRC should hopefully continue to do over the next couple of years.”

“My hope and goal is that we bring more projects about that allow our city to be seen as a beautiful community that’s accepting, and that people feel comfortable being a part of,” Major said.

HRC members discussed the new brochure during their regularly scheduled meeting held on Thursday, Jan. 25.

The pamphlet features a guide to the city’s African-American historical sites, along with a map of each sites’ location.

“When you open it up, to your left are going to be the Troy Underground Railroad sites, to your right are other African-American historical sites,” HRC member Todd Severt said. “If you open it up, it’s a walking map that corresponds with each of the locations and historical sites that are referenced throughout the pamphlet.”

The brochure was designed by city of Troy Management Analyst Salome Hekate, with assistance from city of Troy Communications Coordinator Lauren Karch.

“I would compliment Salome for her unbelievable efforts,” Severt said.

“She did a lot of work,” HRC member Sonia Holycross said. “I think Lauren helped too, so thank Lauren as well. You got it done for us.”

In other business, HRC members also discussed several other initiatives, including recent MLK Jr. Day activities and an initiative to bring new diversion, equity and inclusion training to the community.

“I think we are definitely hitting our mark,” Holycross said of the city’s MLK Jr. Day March, which featured a mosaic image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. filmed by a drone from the Miami County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re looking past just color; I really do feel like we’re starting to blend. I’m excited to be a part of whatever projects we’re going to decide to do moving forward.”

“I know the Troy Foundation, and Melissa Kleptz, have been working at bringing to the community a diversion, equity and inclusion training,” Severt said. “It’s in the plan, so that’s exciting to me.”

“I think there’s still a huge lack of understanding, and I think the only way we’re going to have better understanding is through education,” Severt said.

HRC members also discussed ways to assist with recruitment and retention of officers at the Troy Police Department, and recent increases in the number of homeless senior citizens locally.

“In the spirit of Beloved Community, now we’re bringing that scope out and we’re starting to see other vulnerable populations as well, and they’re of all colors,” Holycross said.

HRC members also discussed a new initiative suggested by Severt, to create a local visitation space for families who are experiencing custody issues or disputes.

“There’s no place for visitation to occur in our area,” Severt said. “Ten years or so ago, we had a visitation house. It was funded through a federal grant; that grant went away.”

“We don’t have that facility or that opportunity available,” he said. “Bonding is important, and keeping these visits happening; even if they are a short duration, especially with the younger kids, that’s really all it takes to establish a bond.”

“That bond needs to continue, even if it’s in a supervised capacity,” Severt said. “I think that’s an area we could and potentially should look at.”

Troy Police Chief Shawn McKinney said the Troy Police Department often assists with custody exchanges, since the previous visitation center has been closed.

“When they closed, a lot of people stopped exchanging custody there,” McKinney said. “We still to this day have people exchange custody in the police department lobby or parking lots.”

“We deal with people who have to find a neutral third party to exchange custody with their former partner, because of protection orders and things like that,” he said. “We also sometimes suggest they go to a place with a big crowd, so there’s independent witnesses there if something happens.”

“I think that’s a very real initiative that we could work on,” HRC member Jon Keller said. “I have some churches in mind already that maybe we could share the idea with. I think that’s do-able.”

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