Listen to Your Neighbors Lecture Series with Opened Eyes, LLC

The Listen to Your Neighbors Lecture Series with Opened Eyes, LLC continues Tuesday, August 23rd. This speaker series co-presented by the Erie Art Museum and Erie Downtown Partnership gives marginalized groups in the Erie community the opportunity to express themselves and share experiences.

Doors will open at 5pm, with presentations beginning at 6pm. A cash bar will be available for beer and wine. This event is free and open to the public.

Opened Eyes is a 501(c)(3) organization designed to help others create a positive identity founded on holistic diversity principles.

A  final lecture will take place September 20th.

Meet The Speakers

Vanessa R. Belen

Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Lived in Newark, NJ and moved to Erie when she was 8yrs old. Most of her life has been spent growing up in Erie with her mother and siblings. She graduated in 2000 from Gecac Learning Center and then obtained an Associate degree in Specialized Business from Erie Business Center in 2003.

Vanessa is the Property Manager for Highpoint Towers. A 15 story section 8/tax credit highrise property with two commercial floors and a credit union. She is also a Co-host for a TV show called Chatting with Sonya and Friends that airs weekly on WICU. You can also watch it online at Erie News Now’s website.

On July 24th, 2015 Vanessa’s oldest child Elijah, was senselessly murdered outside a house party after a football game during a drive by shooting. He was 16yrs old. She has two other children, a 22yr old daughter who recently finished serving in the Navy and a 21yr old son, who’s a psych major at Gannon University.

Vanessa’s commitments consist of serving in the following capacities: Commissioner for the Governor of Latino Affairs for Erie County, Board Member for the Crime Victim Center, an agency advocating for victims of crimes for 50 years. The Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) a pilot program created by the Dept. of Justice, Conciliation Specialists to enhance the dialogue, transparency, and accountability between Erie Police Officers and the Erie Community. Mayor Joe Schember’s Better Together Council designed to implement policies and programs to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion for Erie residents. In 2019, Vanessa was a City Council Candidate.

Dr. Tyler Titus

Dr. Tyler Titus is a Licensed Professional Counselor, advocate, trauma specialist, and elected State Committee member. Tyler became the first openly elected transgender official in the State of Pennsylvania in November 2017. They are the founder and board chair of Compton’s Table, a local non-profit focused on serving queer youth. They were appointed to co-vice chair of the State’s first LGBT Commission of Affairs created by Governor Tom Wolf the summer of 2018 and again in 2020. Tyler served as the president of the Erie School Board during their elected term and now continues to fight for equity across the commonwealth on all levels.