Florida A&M University’s Healing Voices: Black and Blue Lives Matter, held on July 13, was an event that fostered conversation – an act worth taking place according to attendees who witnessed national videos of two black men’s deaths.
Alton Sterling’s death at the hands of police was caught on video in Baton Rouge, La. on July 5. Then, just a day later, Philando Castile was pulled over in his car by officers for a cracked taillight in Falcon Heights, Minn. Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Castile as he was reaching for his identification.
Thoughts and reactions regarding police brutality and recent violence were heard in Charles Winter Wood Theatre. A panel of professors and police officers spoke with students, parents and residents from throughout the community.
“Why do you guys think there are so many officers who have killed unarmed Black men, and never got convicted?” Professional boxer Willie Ferrell asked. Ferrell lost his brother Jonathan to a police killing in Charlotte, NC in 2013.
Ferrell’s direct question was one of many asked by attendees. The event also offered a way for students, parents and members of the community to voice the pain and frustration the recent police brutality has happened.
“I think the most important thing is character,” said Major Ronnie Scott of the Tallahassee Police Department responding to a comment made by an attendee regarding the divide between the police force and society, and the way it affects the manner of police officers when interacting with blacks.
“The officers that wear those uniforms, if they don’t have the proper character then they aren’t going to go out and do the right thing. More importantly, it’s about having the integrity and the ounce of pride and we encourage that,’ said Scott.
Other issues discussed included the proper way to teach children how to communicate with police and the response of recent violence against police.
The event was organized by Associate Dean and Professor of the College of Social Sciences, Hearts and Humanities Yolanda Bogans who felt there wasn’t a better time to have an event as such.
“I was very overwhelmed by what happened last week. I felt that one of the ways to deal with it was to use this opportunity to positively impact what can happen in our community,” Bogans said.
She added, “I feel that every voice needs to be heard in how we address the situation. We have resources available to us, so we have to be courageous and use these resources including voting, including making reports at the police departments whenever we experience negative behavior.”
Bogans plans to schedule another event that fosters conversation in the future.