Community leaders attend FAU panel to discuss race in the US
The College Democrats sponsored the event on the Boca campus.
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On Tuesday, local legislators, police and community leaders visited Florida Atlantic’s Boca campus for a conversation about race in America.
Jonathan Marr, a member of Student Government and chair of the FAU Black Caucus, moderated the occasion, which was sponsored by the FAU College Democrats.
Twenty-five people in total attended the discussion held in the House Chambers.
The event ran from 7-9 p.m. and featured a panel that consisted of seven members.
The panel was made up of Vice President of the College Democrats Justin Atkins and Rea Victory and Jackie La Bayne, both members of the Boca campus NAACP chapter.
FAU Police Captain Larry Ervin, Riviera Beach City Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard, Florida Senator Oscar Braynon II and FAU civil justice professor Mark Harvey were also members of the panel.
Discussion topics ranged from racial inequality, differences in sentencing for crimes, police relations, the Black Lives Matter movement and racial privilege.
After the discussion, a live question and answer forum was held with members of the audience.
For Atkins, he believes that community policing can help rebuild trust among law enforcement and black communities.
“We need to invest more into the people that live in those counties and cities,” Atkins said. “Hire those people because they know the areas, the neighborhoods, and they went to the middle schools and high schools there, that’s community policing.”
“When you can build that trust, build that faith, you mitigate a lot of the issues that we are dealing with now,” the vice president said.
For Victory, the issue of race is a personal and intimate matter. Born in Chicago, the junior sociology major recalled the times her father told her stories of picking cotton in a small town in Mississippi where black and white people lived apart.
“My dad would tell me stories about racism all the time and my mom even though she was from Chicago, she was in high school during the time they were trying integrating schools,” she said.
“She was a part of that program to integrate one of the high schools and when they tried to do it, she was met with racist riots and white picketers.”
Catherine Theriault, president of the College Democrats, said that the event was organized in September of 2016 after events like the national anthem protest led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. She added that the event couldn’t be held until now due to obligations of the panel members.
“There were a lot of other events that came about that made us think about having a panel to discuss the issue, so we contacted elected officials … but elections and legislative session came and because the event was bit time sensitive we weren’t able to do it,” Theriault said.
Theriault said that planning for the event for the first time was difficult.
“We tried to organize it in three weeks with elected officials but we couldn’t secure a room for them,” she said.
However, contacting elected officials to be part of the panel was relatively easy according to Theriault as many of them were fairly responsive to the idea.
“The minute after we contacted Councilwoman Hubbard, we got a response from her saying, ‘Yes,’ she was interested,” she said.
Theriault had also contacted other elected officials like U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of the 20th district of Florida, but he wasn’t able to come due to a scheduling conflict.