Boyce Launches Weekly Discussion Series
One of the many images that resonated from several days of downtown Columbus protests and demonstrations against police brutality and racism was Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin being pepper sprayed by officers. Boyce this week launched an online discussion series on the topic of race.
"The black community is hurting now," Kevin Boyce noted. "We've seen this picture play out a thousand times. The nuance of it is not that it's happening, but that technology is allowing everybody to see it. It's harder to deny the injustice when you see it on videotape."
With those comments, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce set the tone for his forum titled "A Brotherly Discussion On Race, Health, Wealth & More." Boyce began by asking the five-member panel to describe what they've been feeling in recent days with one word. For Dontavius Jarrells, a young Democrat running for Ohio's 25th House District, it's anger.
"I remember my first encounter with the police was early on," Jarrells recalled. "It was one of those moments where you knew you were blackness when. The white officer that I remember thought I stole something and really handled me as a kid. I'm not an adult, I'm in the fifth grade. I've been seeing these images of young people being manhandled by police in the streets. It makes me angry,"
Anger and disappointment sums up the general feeling of the entire panel, which included former state representative Ray Miller and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority's Charles Hillman. But former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman expressed a sense of optimism.
"Because what I see now more than anytime during my lifetime is a real opportunity to take advantage of a crisis that is seen not just in the black community but is a crisis that others have finally recognized as well," Coleman continued. I'm motivated and optimistic about the young people stepping up. I'm motivated and optimistic about the ability to impact change. I'm motivated and optimistic that now maybe the business community will step up. I'm motivated and optimistic that now is the time to do what has been attempted to be done over many years. Now is the time."
Coleman went on to say that the biggest issue involving implementing change is not with the police but with the union representing police. That's when Miller jumped in.
"In talking with the young people leading the protest, they don't know what the FOP is and they really don't care," Miller said. "I don't want to say that in a nonchalant way, but it's good that they don't have all of that history given what we are trying to accomplish right now. I think it's incumbent upon us to buttress them and surround them with our knowledge, love, and urgency. The backdrop is they don't know a lot of the old stuff. A lot of us are afraid, legitimately so of the Fraternal Order of Police."
Miller continued that it's important to move forward and bring communities together. Hillman expanded on that thought stating that all races must come together to address centuries of injustice.
"We didn't cause racism," Hillman said. "We don't support racism, so it's really unfair to think that we're supposed to fix racism. We must rely on white people who caused racism to fix this. We certainly are experts and have to provide advice. But we must rely on, depend on and expect and hold white people responsible for addressing this issue. Part of that is our policing department. It doesn't work for us."
Hillman continued that he's never felt safe or comfortable around police, especially when he's driving. Impact Community Action's Bo Chilton grew up in Springfield, OH having no fear of police.
"Police officers were our coaches on the basketball team," Chilton recalled. "There was a connection, there was community. At some point though, it changed - how the police tactics shifted to more militarized versions of policing. The time has come for us to have peace officers, who are part of the fabric of the community, who are trained to de-escalate situations and not provoke violence and mass incarceration. We can talk about where the shift went, but it's time to shift back."
The panel agreed that this moment shouldn't pass without significant change and progress when it comes to racial injustice. Boyce plans to host a series of similar talks in the coming weeks.