ACT (Antioch Community Team) sponsored a symposium that I attended last Saturday evening. The issues of why police are shooting and killing black folks at an alarming rate of consistency were the topic. The flyer advertisement spoke directly to the events purpose. Noting that “The primary goal of the symposium is to have a proactive community dialogue that ensures trust among law enforcement and communities-at-large via a panel discussion.”
Antioch, California’s Delta Bay Church of Christ was the facility host. Attendance was pretty good considering the available seating accommodations. I would estimate there was over 100 guests excluding the six-member panel and moderator, Dr. Lawrence Rasheed. One absent panel member (Con Johnson) had to be excused to take care of a family issue. The Panel’s expertise was mixed, a current member of the California Highway Patrol, one retired police officer who was a member of the Oakland, CA police department. There was an Attorney who worked on the San Francisco Blue Ribbon study for police tactics, a couple of ladies that recently moved to Antioch within the last six years. Both were from professional backgrounds and one directly involved or connected to law enforcement one way or another. And one other individual with a doctorate that spoke to the interpretation of individual fear and trauma.
There was also a lady in attendance that audio recorded the event for a documentary. I understood her to say she works for KQED. I am not sure if she was making the documentary for the TV station or on her own. I think it was a personal project. I do intend to keep in touch with her and have her as a guest on my new show in the future. As I always make it my business to keep up with Dr. Rasheed and his involvement in local issues. Look for him to also appear on my future shows.
Brother Rasheed, the moderator, has long been involved in community affairs before receiving his doctorate. He is the founder of G.R.I.O.T. (Greatness Rediscovered in Our Time). That organization is “a mentoring & advocacy systemic gestalt providing culturally relevant intervention for African American males.” As such has been a guest on my Blog Talk Radio Show a couple of times. I’ve found him to be front and center when it comes to community issues with our youth and a nice guy in which to have a productive conversation about such topics.
As one can almost count on at these types of affairs, there were technical issues that prevented the showing of videos. One scheduled is entitled “23 Ways You Can Be Killed If You Are Black in America.” You can access the video at the following link, http://www.metatube.com/en/videos/312953/23-Ways-You-Could-Be-Killed-If-You-Are-Black-in-America/ There was also another scheduled video not shown with President Obama 21st Century Policing as the subject matter.
Yet there were many positives that ACT can take from this symposium. First and foremost is that it was scheduled and attended by some very interested local parties. Also in attendance were numerous members running for local political offices, and a few already elected officials. I was happy to learn the presence of a councilman from my city of Pittsburg, located next door to Antioch. The elephant in the room was that no member or representative of Antioch’s mayor’s office or their police department attended the event. In fact, one guest speaker questioned that logic. The community activist, we will call her, asked why the mayor or Antioch’s police captain (both black men) were not asked to attend or serve as members of the panel.
She was right in that particular critique. The two Antioch officials are people in a position to speak on the very issues and topic of conversation. I don’t know when she arrived but at the outset, Dr. Rasheed had noted that these individuals were contacted and invited to attend the event. They declined and obviously did not think to send a representative in their stead. She was reminded along with the rest of the audience of that fact. One might ask then why even have the symposium. It was a forum to hear other people thoughts. With that in mind, it was a successful start to a conversation this country must have on a local and national basis.
They invited members of the audience to make comments and ask the panel a question. They stood in line on both sides of the room waiting their turn at the microphone. The moderator who I thought handled the conversational flow of the meeting in a very respectful expeditiously manner also refrained the audience from firing comments or questions at those commenting at the time.
There were a couple of horror stories of police brutality. A few asked the panel for explanations of police tactics and training. The primary question was why Police Officers should be treated any different than ordinary citizens when there is a questionable killing of people of color. I learned there are rules of law on the books, like the “Police Bill of Rights” and others that govern the investigation of police officers. Although I must confessed I will have to study this, and other laws mentioned to familiarize myself with the actual wording. But one thought became clear; these laws or directives are taken into account when dealing with what the public can even see or learn during an investigation. That is one of the issues that frustrate the public in their search for transparency in these different local and national cases.
There was the lady who informed us that she was once a County Sherriff whose policeman husband lost his life while on a domestic disturbance call. She made it clear that she suddenly found herself a widow and mother of three very young children to raise by herself. I must say, there was no resentment in her voice only happiness at the scheduling of such an event. She was hopeful that more individuals from both sides could attend and talk about solutions and a get a general knowledge of understanding of each other’s needs and requirements.
I think we were all in agreement that the community sorely needs forums such as this. As ACT stated on the face of their itinerary booklet, this was “A symposium looking at Bridging the Divide and Re-Imagining Police – Community Relations.” I can only guess at the reasons the Mayor’s office or Antioch Police hierarchy felt they need not attend such a classy and well-managed event as hosted by ACT. It was not a pity party, nor blame the police for all the communities’ ailments.
It was a chance for concerned community representatives, elected officials, and the police department to talk about their concerns for their city residents. It was a chance to engage a well-attended audience consisting of community leaders in a forum managed by a respectful organization that is serious about addressing a local and national problem. It seems that would be better than meeting a large crowd of demonstrators in the streets. After an incident where the norm is to have people shouting at each other in anger. Where you always run the risk of people who are really not part of the demonstrations organization but are there waiting for the opportunity to destroy property, break in retail outlets and steal items. You can always tell these individuals. Most are not local people but from other areas in the country. They normally have bandanas over their faces or other attire to obscure their identity.
The fact that the officials were not there only confirms the thought that they are not transparent, or interested in a dialog with members of their cities constituency. A constituency that’s looking for answers from their elected officials. Specifically, they want to understand the motives of a force that are carrying weapons, patrolling our streets that we truly need to follow their mantra, “To protect and serve.” We truly believe that people can avoid conflict if all the interested parties are communicating with each other. Maybe they can clear their schedules for the next forum. For now, they can call that one an opportunity missed by those in a position to implement changes in their practices. I hope ACT will sponsor more of these type symposiums.
Peace, make it a day in which Jesus Christ would be proud of you,
Codis Hampton II
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