Discussion focuses on racial injustices

Art gallery by Elton Burgest. Photo by Shamonee Baker

Last year, Tallahassee witnessed numerous demonstrations based on the right to peacefully assemble due to the unruly pattern of police brutality.

On Wednesday, Serenity Coffee and Kava Bar on Railroad Avenue hosted an open discussion about how the community can continue the progression of fighting the racial injustices that Black people have faced for centuries and are still facing today.

The sole purpose of this event was to figure out what the next steps look like relating to issues such as police brutality, systemic racism and inclusion, to name a few. Akhenaton Thomas, the president of the National Panhellenic Council and a speaker at the event, says it starts right here in our own communities.

“Everybody wants to change the world, but no one wants to change the world around them,”  Thomas said. “Community unity is where it starts.”

During the discussion, Thomas encourages guests to get a better understanding of the historic facts that led to the injustices of today by reading books such as “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. He said that the main issue is a “lack of understanding.”

“History is so important because it’s the connection to the present that directs you to the future,” Thomas said.

Matthew Nazareth, owner of Serenity, reminded guests who want to better understand the Black community, that talking about racial injustices isn’t always easy.

“Sometimes accountability can come off as an attack,” Nazareth said. “That’s why we wanted to have this discussion.”

Matthew Nazareth (right), Akhenaton Thomas (middle), and Elton Burgest (left) leading the discussion. Photo by Rowyn N.

Thomas said that the reason he comes to Serenity is because it provides an environment where you can come and have “courageous conversations” with so many different people who respect each other’s viewpoints.

To extend this discussion into a more visual form, Serenity invited a local artist, Elton Burgest, to display his paintings on what Black people’s place in community looks like.

“These pieces talk about the struggles of Black people and my perspectives on them,” Burgest said.

Burgest’s art is all digital paintings that he illustrates through photoshop of raw photographs he takes.

Nathaniel Green, an avid  Serenity patron, says he thought the event was great but that he would like to see this discussion turn into action soon.

“I think forming different groups specific to certain issues would allow us to get educated on how to prevent these problems in the community instead of just talking about them,” Green said. “We could all eventually meet back up and give progress reports on how that certain issue is going.”

Thomas seemed to agree with Green, and said he understands wanting to take action in order to effect  change.

“This discussion needs to be followed up with more events like this if we really want to identify the changes we need to make and steps we want to take as a community,” Thomas said. “It’s time to stop following and start marching.”

For more information on upcoming events and discussions you can follow Serenity via Instagram @serenitycoffeekava.