Ways to move forward in the conversation about race and police accountability


On Monday, Jan. 30, I attended a public forum held by the City of Charlotte and the Community Building Initiative in response to the 2016 Charlotte protests.

Here are the 5 + 1 things that came up for me during Charlotte’s conversation with race and police accountability:

(1) The city is responding

But it’s been slow. Mayor Jennifer Roberts acknowledged this candidly. “We’ve been on the defensive, and we need to be on the offensive,” she said. The city presented its Community Action Plan. It’s available here.

(2) Are we doing the work?

Many RSVP’d to this event, but turnout was low. I was surprised that given an open forum with the Mayor, city leaders and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, very few people turned up.

(3) Attendees called for a multi-layered response

Education and mentoring were consistent themes in terms of building the way forward. The concept of an equitable audit was suggested — the idea that officers would audit neighborhoods for disrepair and be assigned to mentor youth in those neighborhoods.

(4) Mad respect for Mayor Jennifer Roberts

I sat in a small group discussion with the mayor, and I was impressed by her humility and transparency. She’s working hard around youth mentorship, foundational to creating a new future for the city.

(5) I’m encouraged by my fellow citizens

In the words of a fellow attendee: “I was taught and I was raised to stay awake. We have to come together some kind of way. Our communities are hurting and they’re struggling from years of oppression. Everyone’s scared. We’ve got to reprogram. We need hope.”


(+1) The discussion is not black and white.

This is what the young Korean pastor in our group reminded us. (About 15 percent of Charlotte’s population is foreign-born.) “We feel marginalized too,” he said.

So let’s stay awake and reprogram, Charlotte.

Many in my group asked about ways to shape the city moving forward. Here are a few recommendations:

(1) Sign up for the eight-week Civic Leadership Academy. (Note: For the spring session, registration has closed.)

(2) Take part in the Community Planning Academy.

(3) Sign up to mentor a youth.

(4) Get involved at the neighborhood scale. The city provides funding for eligible neighborhoods to improve quality of life through the Neighborhood Matching Grants Program.

(5) Welcome new neighbors to Charlotte.

Photos: Holly Martin


  1. It actually isn’t surprising that many people don’t attend those events. They are poorly advertised, generally poorly executed, rarely lead to change. Then there is the mistrust. Although I don’t believe it happens today but not even 40 years ago meetings like these were used to target people who attend. You attend a meeting you were put on a list my law enforcement. You said something really heartfelt to the government or law enforcement you were surveilled.


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