"Do Good Dialogues" Host Hands Up Don't Shoot panel Discussion
Law enforcement, actors, and activists came together to participate in the, “Do Good Dialogues” series that took place on Tuesday in the Nyumburu Cultural Center. The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center created the panel as a part of their visiting artists series, to discuss the Hands Up Don't Shoot movement as well as the relationship between the police force and the community.
Gregory Yancey, an attorney who has practiced in civil litigation, professor and author moderated the panel. Four panelists who all had different expertise and perspectives also joined him on stage.
One of the panelists was University of Maryland Alumnus and chief of police for the University, David Mitchell.
Aaron O'Neal, an activist attorney who does a lot of criminal and family law, an organizer for the Black is back coalition, and worker for the African People's Socialist Party was another panelist. O'neal believed it was important to be a part of this panel in order to inform the community.
"A lot of this doesn't get discussed in any substantive way in our community and to reach out to the college students and show them they have the ability to be a part of what is going on in the community," he said.
The panel also included Yejide Orunmila, the president of the African National Women's Organization, an international organization that focuses on the issues black women face under colonialism. She hoped to bring a different perspective to the panel.
"I think it's important to have the perspective of a women. We are having all this discussion without really talking about the underpinning of why these things are happening and I wanted to give that perspective," she said.
The final panelist was Keith Wallace, an actor, playwright, and activist who is the sole performer in his play "The Bitter Game," which follows the life of a young African American male.
The panelists addressed many different topics that had to do with race relations. They began by discussing the Hand Up Don't Shoot Movement, which started after the death of Michael Brown. Brown, an unarmed black teen, was murdered in 2014 by St. Louis police officer Darren Wilson.
When Brown was shot eyewitness reports indicated that he had his hands up, however there is speculation about whether these reports are true. His death sparked the Hands Up Don't Shoot movement.
"The death of an 18-year-old can never be valid in my mind," Mitchell said while discussing the case with his fellow panelists.
They also discussed the implementation of police review boards and community policing.
"We have to put out a solution to [police brutality] and our solution is black community control to hire, fire train and set the terms of what the police do in our community," said O'Neal.
Wallace also stated that the responsibility should not be on the community to protect themselves but for the police to protect the community.
"The world we live in right now, for whatever reason the onus seems to be on the community to understand the laws and to understand the procedures that law enforcement is supposed to be withholding… I think what we need to do is shift the ownership on those who are paid to serve and protect," Wallace said.
The conversation also included discussion about the role of the media in community relationships and how the portrayal of African Americans in the media can contribute to the violence and discrimination they face. One major focus was humanizing African Americans.
"It is important to understand the basis for why things happen, we are often told that we have to humanize ourselves it is important for us to understand that we are human and we don't have to prove ourselves to anybody," Orunmila said.
Other topics in the discussion included artistic expression as well as stop and frisk policies. There was also a portion of the panel for audience members to make their own comments y and ask questions.
According to Orunmila, it is important to get involved and to have these discussions, however just having a discussion isn't enough.
"I think it's important because people get to voice their concern,”Orunmila said. “I think it would be more effective if it were actionable things to happen after these dialogues because sometimes it just becomes, just talk, and that's why we are here."
The panelists ended by urging the community to get involved and make change.
"In order to stop the police killings, to stop the brutality, we have to be organized," O'Neal said.