written by Ja’han Jones
Community members of various ages gathered on Saturday, August 23, for a panel discussion concerning the intersection of race and law enforcement. Arizona’s NAACP Youth and College chapter sponsored the discussion, held in the South Mountain Community Center, which featured a panel of young African American males representing various disciplines.
Judge and 2014 Justice of the Peace candidate Cody Williams served as moderator, posing questions about racial profiling, African American sentiment toward law enforcement, and the road ahead toward a more hospitable relationship between police and the communities they serve. The panel consisted of NAACP Youth and College chapter member Terry’On Anderson, former Alpha Phi Alpha Mu Eta chapter President Joshua Goode, journalist and former President of the African American Men of ASU Ja’han Jones, community activist Vincent Anderson, and Nation of Islam Mosque #32 member Matin Muhammad.
That the onus of reconciliation and healing falls largely upon law enforcement was an oft-referenced theme throughout the event, with panelists and audience members sharing data and personal anecdotes which evidenced a distrust in law enforcement among the African American community.
Officers from the Phoenix Police Department attended, as well, aligned across the back of the room and answering questions from a concerned community. Attendees inquired about police protocol, deadly use of force, and other actions taken by law enforcement.
The pain of history reared itself in every anecdote offered, every question lobbed, as the audience and panelists alike shared personal, tragic experiences with law enforcement to which the officers in attendance responded with uniform stoicism.
The presence of law enforcement officers was, however, notable; it served as a necessary, chaffing, discomforting, frank dialogue between police and those who have traditionally felt victimized by them.
“The increases in police harassment affect us the most, but no one has asked us for any input,” said Chanette Campbell, a 20 year-old NAACP youth & college organizer. “Stop talking to elected officials and clergy and start talking to the youth, we are here and ready to engage with you so we can all be empowered” she continued.
NAACP Youth & College Chapters will continue to organize a monthly forum for youth voices to be heard. The next meeting is September 27 at noon at 212 E Alta Vista Road in Phoenix. To learn more about NAACP visit www.naacp.org