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Burdened, tired, motivated: Community leaders reflect on a week of racial tension and bloodshed




Left to right: Eugene Collins, Rev. James Armstrong III, Brittany Lynch
Left to right: Eugene Collins, Rev. James Armstrong III, Brittany Lynch

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It was a weekend of unrest for communities of color across the country as many continue to process last week's deeply troubling tragedies in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas. 

To get a better sense of how African Americans in the three cities are feeling as a new week begins, Take Two spoke to three community leaders on the ground who have been organizing and protesting for justice and reconciliation. 

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.)

Highlights

If you could choose one word to describe how you are feeling this Monday morning, what would it be? 

Eugene Collins: With some of the things going on in our city, I've heard this again and again — just tired. The case of Mr. Sterling — the vicious murder of Mr. Sterling — has brought the issues around police reform in this city to national news, but this is nothing new to our city. The relationship between African Americans and police officers has been there for a number of years, and our leaders have not done an effective enough job addressing it. This is not a big surprise. One thing I said on my radio show about six months ago is that, hey, we're one incident away from having this city tore-up. Folks are tired of the way that they're being treated by officers in their community — with the lack of respect.

Friday night I was out with some other leaders and organizers in our community. To see officers laughing at protestors — just a lack of respect — has definitely added to that anger. 

Brittany Lynch: I would have to say motivated — ready to do the work. If we don't hold our state-sanctioned police, legislature, etcetera accountable, the death is going to continue to happen, and that's not something I'm willing to do, so I'm motivated to start working towards accountability. 

This weekend, I held two different radio shows — I'm a radio host here in the twin cities, so we had several hours that we just held space on the air for the community to call in to share their thoughts. Because I'm a DJ, there were lots of artists that got together to start creating healing spaces and public art gatherings that expressed outrage. 

As you see it, how do things like visual art and music help in a situation as unique and powerful as this one? 

Brittany Lynch: I think something that folks have to realize is that the revolution is going to look different for everyone. Not everyone is going to find themselves in the streets protesting — that's not everyone's role. That doesn't mean you can't participate. And so, art gives other people an opportunity to express themselves and to participate in a way that makes sense for them, and that's according to their skillset. Art also has a unique way of connecting with people and carrying a message that folks wouldn't ordinarily hear.  

Pastor Armstrong, how can police improve their relations, and what role do younger people play in that? 

You know, Chief Brown has implemented a community policing program that — I think — can be a model for other cities on how the community and the police should interact. 

I was speaking with a youth from my community the other day, and he explained to me a situation that happened between him and a police officer. The day after the shooting, he went into a local grocery store, and he was met by a white police officer. He described the feeling as awkward. The police officer walked up to him and asked,"Are you okay?" And he didn't know what to say. He was speechless. Immediately after, the officer said, "No, really, are you okay?" And he said that he couldn't help but start crying, and they embraced. And the officer told him, "We're gonna get through this."

I believe that — for Dallas — the sentiment is that the police are caring, and we're just hurting together. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the entire conversation.