Amy Incorvati-Aloisi knew that there was a problem with racism brewing in Stow ever since May, when her neighbors found a swastika painted in front of their home.
But after another couple in Stow reported finding the "n-word" painted on their apartment door last month, she knew it was time to take a stand.
"This is just not who we are," she said.
The Stow woman led a walk around the Stow municipal complex Sunday to oppose racism, calling the event "We Walk United Peaceful" walk. Despite cold weather and a light rain that fell early minutes in the event, more than 100 men, women and children took part in the walk. Some held printed signs reading "We Welcome Diversity" while others held their own signs. A few motorists passing the event from Graham Road and Darrow Road honked in support of the message.
The rally was not sponsored by the city, but some officials, including Mayor Sara Kline and Councilman John Pribonic, took part in the demonstration.
"The city of Stow takes very seriously allegations of racial harassment and intimidation," Kline said recently. "Recent events reported in our community do not represent the values of our city or the beliefs of the majority of residents. In the strongest possible terms, I and the administration reject racism in all its forms. Everyone is welcome in our community and everyone should feel that they have a home in the city of Stow — no matter their racial or cultural background, religion, sexual orientation or identity or gender. We will redouble our efforts to ensure that our values of tolerance are spread throughout the community so all residents, visitors and businesses know that the city of Stow is place where everyone is welcome."
Esayla Williams and her boyfriend Dierre Moss, residents of the Hidden Lake apartment complex, told police that when they came home Jan. 22 after being gone overnight, they found the slur on their door, written in large letters with a permanent black marker.
Incorvati-Aloisi said she doesn’t know the couple, but she does know James and Elizabeth Bell, who found the swastika painted in front of their home when they returned home from vacation in May.
"I don’t even know if we were targeted or if it was just random,’ James Bell said. The couple removed the offensive graffiti and took part in Sunday’s vigil.
The crowd included several members of Redemption Chapel near the Stow/Kent border. The church’s pastor had distributed a flyer promoting the event to his congregation.
Molly Williams of Kent was one of the church members participating, along with her daughter, Gwenyth, 4, and son Isaac, 18 months.
"We are an interracial family by adoption," she said. "We think it’s important for everyone to know that God made everyone beautiful. Everyone is welcome in Stow."