Tulsa Talks police-violence forum seeks ways to turn ‘moment’ into a ‘movement’ (Tulsa World)

By Paighten Harkins 

Panelists and community members worked together Monday evening to address police violence issues and come up with feasible strategies to overcome them.

More than 200 people packed into the Greenwood Cultural Center on Monday to talk about interactions with police.

The panelists at the Tulsa Talks forum on police violence — who included local community leaders, experts and politicians — discussed their initial reactions to the recent shootings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, as well as the sniper attack on police officers in Dallas, and ways to improve policing and community relations in Tulsa.

Following the panel discussion, the crowd broke into five groups to formulate action plans about different issues, such as community policing, officer-sensitivity training, unlawful stops, the legal process and possible policy changes.

The panelists, all of whom are black, were asked about their feelings in the wake of the recent shootings.

We the People Oklahoma leader Marq Lewis said he was shocked at first and then came to a conclusion about the importance placed on black lives.

“At one time I knew that you had a couple of people saying that ‘black lives matter,’ but I knew right then and there that black lives really don’t matter. It really just cut to the core,” said Lewis.

Then the Dallas shootings happened, and that made things worse, he said.

But psychologist Art Williams — a self-proclaimed product of the ’60s and the Vietnam War — said the shootings didn’t surprise him.

“Our criminal justice system is broke,” Williams said. “This stuff has been happening for 40 or 50 years. Now we have cellphones and cameras to collect the information.”

His comment was met with applause from the audience, which filled the roughly 200 chairs and spilled over to standing room only.

The panelists went on to answer several other audience-supplied questions, such as why law enforcement representatives weren’t present at the forum.

Moderator DeVon Douglass, a policy analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said law enforcement officials weren’t present because she wanted the forum to be community-based. She indicated that a later forum will include law enforcement.

In response to a question about how to bridge gaps among minority communities in Tulsa to rally for change, Lewis answered: “We’re all humans, and we bleed, right?”

He said forging relationships comes down to respecting each other and being involved.

The panel ended with each representative taking two minutes to talk about ways attendees could turn these recent tragedies — this “moment” — into a lasting movement.

One of the suggestions from Metropolitan Baptist Church Pastor Ray Owens was to push law enforcement agencies to change the way they interact with people of color and to press for sensitivity training to help confront racial biases.

Lewis urged attendees to stay vocal and active in the community about changes they wish to see in law enforcement.

“Don’t quit,” he said. “We have their attention.”

In the last hour of the event, the five smaller groups discussed strategies to deal with the issues and to learn more about the issues important to them.

DeAnn Morgan, who attended the legal system breakout led by attorney Ruth Addison, said she came to the forum because she’s tired of rampant violence, concerned for her son and brothers, and wants to do something.

“I wanted to make a change instead of just sitting on my couch and typing on Facebook and complaining,” she said.

She said what she took away from the event was that it seemed everybody was united and tired of the same things she’s tired of. Leaving the forum, she said she felt empowered.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.