Kayah Woodford Raises Awareness in Bexley
The Ohio State student draws attention to racial inequity in her hometown.
As protesters passed around the bullhorn, Kayah Woodford joined the circle of those expressing anger and frustration. She was inspired to speak out for racial justice at a Downtown Columbus rally in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. But she didn’t want her message to stay there. She wanted to bring it to her hometown, too.
Joining with friends and mentors, Woodford launched the Bexley Anti-Racism Project, an organization dedicated to shining a light on racial inequities in the wealthy, predominantly white community. In June 2020, they hosted a Black Lives Matter rally in Bexley with nearly 1,000 demonstrators marching from the tight-knit, East Side suburb to the Statehouse, where they lay on the ground for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck. “You could feel the passion and the vulnerability of students stepping forward and sharing during such an upsetting, frustrating, emotionally exhausting time,” says Woodford, a 2019 Bexley High School graduate.
Since then, Woodford has been speaking out about her experiences in Bexley. She’s talked about microaggressions, struggling to feel comfortable in her skin. Though Bexley is known for its progressive politics, a darker side has emerged in recent months, including the revelation that several white Bexley High School students were part of a racist Snapchat group that attacked Black students online. The Bexley Anti-Racism Project also revealed that Black people comprise 58 percent of traffic citations in the city, though they represent just 6 percent of Bexley’s population.
Education is a big part of the Bexley Anti-Racism Project. Woodford counts more than 500,000 online engagements with the organization’s 21-day challenge suggesting books, podcasts, articles, movies and albums to educate about Black culture. In addition, the organization has held panel discussions, a movie night and an activist self-care event. “Without someone sharing their own lived experience, you have no idea what they’re facing in their own lives,” Woodford says. “At the heart of what we do, it’s amplifying those voices and sharing those stories to raise awareness in our community.”
Woodford has taken on this mission while a full-time student at Ohio State University. “You can’t enact change without putting in the work,” she says.