CLAYTON – An estimated 600 people gathered on Saturday in Clayton for ‘Walk & Talk Clayton’ an event organized by three student-athletes from Clayton High School.
Justin Bell (Class of 2021), Ariana Daley (Class of 2021), and Henri Somadjagbi (Class of 2020), with the cooperation of the Town of Clayton, Mayor Jody McLeod, Town Manager Adam Lindsay, Police Chief Blair Myhand and the entire Clayton Police Department met at Clayton High School then marched through Downtown Clayton to Town Square.
The focus of the event was for people to gather, and walk, and begin to engage in tough discussions regarding race relations across the United States and locally.
Bell, Daley, and Somadjagbi hope to spread awareness of racial injustice, encourage honest conversations, bring the community together, and give a louder voice to the unheard. While many protests around the country have pointed to problems, these young-adult problem solvers have recognized the problems and have suggested solutions to help reduce police brutality and bring people together in communities as a whole. One of those solutions is for law enforcement agencies to take notes on how the Clayton Police Department goes about its day to day business, training its officers to enforce the law while engaging with the community, and taking a firm stand against racism and unnecessary violence.
Henry Somadjagbi is a 2020 graduate from Clayton High School where he played football and rugby and is now a scholarship rugby player at Mount St Mary’s University and social media influencer. During his speech Somadjagbi said, “I know many people have witnessed the police brutality on TV and the racism that is still present today. However, you would be surprised how many people are still unaware or choose to look away. Sharing posts over social media is just one way to spread public awareness. You can also find charities and organizations to donate to and if you do not have money to spare, that’s not an issue, there are hundreds of petitions that need signing all over social media and the internet. You can also contribute in peaceful protests. Rioting is not the answer. It sends the wrong message… We are trying to bring everyone together, not destroy our home.”
Ariana Daley a rising senior and five time Conference Champ track star at Clayton High School told the audience, “If our voices were understood and we could speak freely in the land of the free there’d be less fear, less death and more of seeing eye to eye. Maybe even peace for years to come… Let us dream of having a future where we are truly together as one nation. We thought the divide went away with segregation, but baby this nation is facing a divide much greater and only YOU can mend together. Do something. Stop being complacent, ‘cause in this race we are way behind and need help catching up.”
Mayor McLeod, Chief Myhand, District Court Judge Addie Rawls, and local attorney Antoan Whidbee also addressed those in attendance. The event was peaceful and lasted about three hours.
Photos courtesy Walter Schmidlin