Con­ver­sa­tion brings re­flec­tions on end­ing racism

Record Observer - - Front Page - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

WYE MILLS — The fourth “Sun­day Sup­per — Queen Anne’s County Con­ver­sa­tions on Race” took place at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege, Thurs­day, March 2, as a lun­cheon. Par­tic­i­pants were law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous mem­bers of the Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, State’s At­tor­ney Lance Richard­son, Corrections War­den La­monte Cook, sev­eral ed­u­ca­tional ad­min­is­tra­tors and a large num­ber of high school stu­dents.

The dis­cus­sions on race re­la­tions be­gan last July. Other ses­sions were held in Septem­ber 2016 at the old Ken­nard High School build­ing and Novem­ber 2016 at Centreville United Methodist Church. Each ses­sion has in­vited spe­cial groups, lo­cal clergy in Septem­ber, and ed­u­ca­tors in Novem­ber. The groups in­vited this time were specif­i­cally law en­force­ment and young peo­ple.

Rev. Joan H. Brooks, pas­tor of New Re­vived United Methodist Church at Tay­lor’s Is­land (Dorch­ester County), and a mem­ber of the Con­ver­sa­tions on Race Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, gave an in­vo­ca­tion to be­gin the day’s dis­cus­sions.

Brooks’ said, “You cre­ated us each uniquely in your im­age and like­ness, in all shapes and sizes and com­plex­ions. We pray with faith and be­lief that you will heal the land of the in­fec­tious dis­ease of racism that tar­gets many even to­day. John 13:34, ‘A new com­mand­ment I give to you, that you love one an­other; as I have loved you, that you also love one an­other.’ Help us to not par­tic­i­pate in any racial acts against our brothers ... Help us all to live in peace and har­mony with one an­other ... Help this com­mu­nity pro­mote true un­der­stand­ing of racial is­sues in or­der to make Queen Anne’s County a more lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity for all peo­ple. Amen.”

All of the ses­sions have been or­ga­nized in small round ta­ble dis­cus­sion groups led by in­di­vid­ual fa­cil­i­ta­tors ask­ing sev­eral sim­ple ques­tions to pro­mote open and hon­est dis­cus­sions about race. Ques­tion 1, used as an “ice­breaker,” paired two peo­ple at each ta­ble to de­scribe their part­ner to ev­ery­one else at the ta­ble, hav­ing each per­son they were paired with to in­ter­view their part­ner to get to know them. Once that took place, ques­tion 2, “What was your first ex­pe­ri­ence with some­one of a dif­fer­ent race?” and ques­tion 3, “What can we do to im­prove race re­la­tions in Queen Anne’s County?”

The dis­cus­sions that fol­lowed ques­tions 2 and 3 pro­duced some in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and views.

From one ta­ble, fa­cil­i­ta­tor Jeff Franklin said, “I grew up in Cleve­land, Ohio, com­ing from a Jewish fam­ily. Cleve­land was an in­te­grated com­mu­nity, at least legally, how­ever, eco­nomic hous­ing pat­terns in Cleve­land of­ten re­sulted in eco­nomic seg­re­ga­tion in com­mu­ni­ties and schools. As Jewish peo­ple, we were keenly aware of seg­re­ga­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion our­selves.”

Kent Is­land High School se­nior Carl Bouie, 17, was paired with Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann, so Carl in­tro­duced Hof­mann to the oth­ers at the ta­ble, say­ing, He’s been with the QA Sher­iff’s Of­fice the past 25 years, 11 years as the sher­iff, grew up in An­napo­lis, with a sin­gle mother to raise him. His child­hood best friend was an African Amer­i­can boy named Regi­nald (who still re­mains his friend). Hof­mann’s mom and Regi­nald’s mom were good friends and that’s why as boys they spent a lot of time to­gether. Sher­iff Hof­mann told me, ‘It taught me not to see peo­ple as a color. I don’t see peo­ple as a color to­day.’”

When Hof­mann in­tro­duced Carl, he re­ported, “Carl told me, ‘I don’t view peo­ple as a color, I see them first for their char­ac­ter.’ That’s the way he was raised to see peo­ple by his fam­ily. Carl played bas­ket­ball on the var­sity team at KIHS this past sea­son.”

Asia Jones moved to Queen Anne’s County from New Jersey and has no­ticed a re­stric­tive dif­fer­ence in cul­ture be­tween folks of dif­fer­ent col­ors here. She

said, “It’s been a tran­si­tion for me. We didn’t have as much sep­a­ra­tion be­tween peo­ple in New Jersey as here.”

KIHS se­nior Jamira Warner, 18, lives with her grand­mother and works part-time af­ter school at a lo­cal gro­cery store. Jamira’s goal is to be­come trained in neo-natal care. She said, “In my opin­ion, many stu­dents at the high school are shel­tered and have money pro­vided by their par­ents. They don’t un­der­stand the strug­gles of peo­ple who don’t have what their fam­i­lies have.”

Brooks re­mem­bered where she grew up (Tal­bot County), her par­ents mov­ing her to an in­te­grated school at an early age, when African Amer­i­can par­ents had a choice as to where to send their chil­dren to school — either to the tra­di­tional all-Black school or an in­te­grated school. At first, Joan’s tran­si­tion was per­son­ally dif­fi­cult mov­ing to a racially mixed school. Joan said she did suc­cess­fully make the tran­si­tion.

Among the group at that ta­ble, there was agree­ment, “There are ‘old folks’ who are set in their ways, and you’re not going to change them. They’re not ready for the changes they’ve seen out in so­ci­ety,” as one ta­ble mem­ber ex­pressed.

“To­day’s younger gen­er­a­tion is the group that is going to over­come racism as we have known it,” said Brooks. Her view was agreed upon by ev­ery­one at the her ta­ble — the younger gen­er­a­tion will help re­move racism from our na­tion, and it will take time. She said she liked Carl’s view of not see­ing color in peo­ple, but view­ing peo­ple by their char­ac­ter.

Fol­low­ing the small group dis­cus­sions, the floor was opened for gen­eral com­ments from par­tic­i­pants. Re­cently re­tired school ad­min­is­tra­tor Deb­o­rah Lawrence spoke first, say­ing, “We must be mind­ful of our ac­tions and our words when speak­ing to oth­ers — that’s very im­por­tant.”

From her ta­ble, 1st Sgt. Duke John­ston of the sher­iff’s of­fice said, “You know, we as law en­force­ment are peo­ple too. Quite of­ten when we come into a store in uni­form, par­ents will take their chil­dren by the hand and say, ‘If you don’t straighten up, he’s going to ar­rest you!’”

Some­one else from an­other ta­ble com­mented, “What does that teach the child? — Fear the po­lice!” It was a re­ac­tion to Lawrence’s com­ment, “be mind­ful of our ac­tions and our words.”

Rec­om­men­da­tions came from the floor, “We need a cadet pro­gram for our school chil­dren to do ‘ride­a­longs’ with po­lice of­fi­cers, so they can see the work that is be­ing done to pro­tect our com­mu­nity, and at the same time, get to know our law en­force­ment of­fi­cers more closely.”

County Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Steve Wil­son said, “There has been much dis­course across our na­tion, some of it not so pleas­ant in re­cent years, about racial prob­lems. We’re tak­ing the high road to deal with this is­sue. That may be one of the rea­sons our county is nice here, be­cause we make it nice with ef­forts like these dis­cus­sions.”

Jack Brod­er­ick, also a Race Steer­ing Com­mit­tee mem­ber, who shared an­nounc­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with Tasha Thomas on Thurs­day, said, “We need to cap­i­tal­ize on the good­will of this event. Al­ways keep dis­cus­sions open, hon­est and re­spect­ful.”

PHOTO BY LEE FRANKLIN

One of nearly 20 ta­bles where race re­la­tions were dis­cussed, from the left, dis­cus­sion fa­cil­i­ta­tor Jeff Franklin, Kent Is­land High School stu­dent Carl Bouie, Bay Times re­porter Doug Bishop (stand­ing), Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann, Asia Jones, Joan Brooks, and KIHS stu­dent Jamira Warner.

Many Queen Anne’s County res­i­dents par­tic­i­pated in the fourth con­ver­sa­tion on race Thurs­day, March 2, this time held at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege. The main groups in­vited were law en­force­ment per­son­nel and high school stu­dents.

Shar­ing an­nounc­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at the fourth “Sun­day Sup­per” con­ver­sa­tion about race, were Jack Brod­er­ick, left, and Tasha Thomas, shown here with event co­or­di­na­tor Ed Modell, Thurs­day, March 2, at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege.

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