Event organizer fueled by seeking change

Chad Frey
Kyla Miller has taken a leadership role in organizing events to call attention to systemic and institutional racism.

Kyla Miller did not move to North Newton to become a community organizer, or an activist. She moved to the small town to attend college.

Which she did. Moving from Oklahoma to Harvey County, Miller attended Bethel College. She played sports and finished a degree. Along the way she got married, had a child and started working for Mirror, Inc., and the Kansas Children's Service League.

And then George Floyd died at the hands of police officers as an officer who kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, in Minneapolis, Minn.

Like so many others, Miller felt a call to action at that time.

“I have a huge heart to help anyone and everyone that comes in contact with me,” MIller.

That is evident in her career and job choices. As she was planning a Juneteenth celebration in Athletic Park, she was unabashed that anyone who came would be fed — whether they were able to donate to the potluck-style meal or not.

“I can’t help everyone, but I can do as much as I can,” Miller said.

She has founded a Facebook group, called My Life Matters, that quickly saw more than 150 people join.

She was also in the lead of organizing a memorial and rally for Floyd at Centennial Park in the recent weeks — an event that featured several speakers and more than 100 people who came to show support on a day with temperatures in the high 90s.

“Being here for four years, people of color did not have a voice. I have never seen anyone take up for our community,” Miller said. “This was a huge thing. Once that happened, it was the last straw. I don’t know what voice I have, but I am going to use that voice to the best of my ablity.”

She told The Kansan that she was discriminated against while an athlete at Bethel College, but declined to talk about specifics.

“I don’t want to talk about that. I was done wrong, and he knows who he is ... he knows what he did,” Miller said. “... They do have good coaches. I have had coaches that did not care about the color of your skin.”

That is not, she said, what motivated her to begin organizing events. What got her moving was the death of George Floyd.

“We need to fight for the change that we can,” Miller said.

And it is her efforts, along with a few others, that has encouraged Larry Lee, the co-chair of the Newton Community For Racial Justice.

“I [am] overjoyed to see young people willing to make a difference,” Lee said. “What was interesting to me we gave them suggestions, they listened politely and they followed some. ... What was great to me was to see .. a new generation that says ’we are gong to do something, and we are going to do it now.’”