By Rev. C.J. Brinson
What started out as a gathering where political officials operated as if they were on a public relations campaign turned into a momentous occasion in the community urging city officials to move forward on economic, educational, criminal justice and police issues. Police issues proved quite contentious, focusing especially on an independent Citizen’s Review Board and the call for a resolution by the City Council to repeal House Bill 972.
The gathering, an event entitled Let Us Speak, took place at the Greensboro Coliseum and was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright of the Citadel of Praise. Unlike typical events relegating citizens to listening to officials tell them what is in their best interest, Let Us Speak provided citizens, especially youth, with the opportunity to speak and for officials and elder citizens to do more listening.
The Mayor and the Police Chief laid out initiatives and policies addressing fundamental issues surrounding the Black community only to be called out by a few members of the community who voiced that their efforts were lackluster at best. Reverend Clarence Hunt, youth pastor at New Light Missionary Baptist Church, challenged the Greensboro Police Department, the Mayor and the City Council on its minuscule stance on the proposed Citizen’s Review Board. Rev. Hunt emphatically expressed to them that a review board not led by citizens nor independent of the police is an injustice to the public. He stressed that the police cannot police themselves.
A young lady, also, challenged the Chief on the training methods of the Department. She quoted the words of Colin Kapernick stating that those who receive a cosmetologist license undergo a training process longer than 6 months which surpasses the training requirement of typical police officers. Her words were followed by the eloquence of a local poet, Josephus III, who spoke out against the lack of access of citizens to police body worn cameras and called upon the City Council to take a stance against HB 972 through the form of a resolution calling for the repeal of that Bill. Josephus, with the assistance of Rev. Nelson Johnson, was able to get the crowd and City officials to stand in support of having the City Council to present a resolution to repeal HB 972. It should also be noted that the Police Chief went on record indicating that he stands against HB 972 and supports a review board independent of the City’s current review board process.
Reverend Johnson reminded citizens not to be deterred by the political posturing of many leaders and insisted that the people continue to protest and not repeat the history of Greensboro in failing to make effectual change. The pattern in this city has been to present new initiatives and new faces to give the appearance of change which, according to Rev. Johnson, is cosmetic and soon fades away. Therefore, we must continue to fight until systematic changes are made to benefit all the citizens of Greensboro. Gaining momentum and support against these issues plaguing our city is not easy. However, with the efforts of the people and organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, Community-City Working Group, Queer People of Color Collective, churches and faith communities, Working America, America Friends’ Service Committee and people of all races and walks of life throughout the city, we will be able to continue to move forward and to ultimately transform Greensboro into a more beloved community.