CHARLOTTE, NC – Monday night, following the first day of jury selection for the Randal Kerrick trial, area citizens gathered for a “How do we heal” panel discussion at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church in uptown Charlotte. Kerrick is on trial for killing Jonathan Ferrell, an un-armed Black male bleeding as the result of an automobile accident in 2013. Kerrick was one of three Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers responding to a 919 call, and the only one to fire his weapon dispensing 10 or more bullets into Ferrell causing his death.
The discussion hosting two panels; Advocacy and policy, was organized by SAFE Coalition NC, and was sponsored by Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, ACLU of NC, and Little Rock AME Zion Church. Willie Ratchford, Executive Director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee served as moderator.
Panelists representing advocacy were: Willie Ferrell, brother of Jonathan Ferrell; Georgia Ferrell, mother of Jonathan Ferrell; Minister Corine Mack, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch NAACP President; and Marcelle Vielot, Millennial Organizer/Highlander Fellow.
Open to all, the first question was: How do we use activism and advocacy to heal ourselves given the situation we are addressing today?
* Corine Mack started by saying we can’t heal others until we heal ourselves. We all have to look in the mirror. “Let me make it clear she said, Black folk did not create racism, White’s did.” It is important for us and our good White friends to have honest real conversations. For so many years we have been politically incorrect. Timeout for that. We’ve got to stop killing our boys whether it’s at the hands of the police department or, Black on Black Crime. Marcelle Vielot responded, “It’s incredibly important that we begin the process of becoming comfortable with working together. Most of us are church folk, but we don’t even speak like we used to. If we are really trying to break down the barriers we have to knock on doors and talk to people. Organizing is not sexy – you get sweaty, you stink – but we’ve got to do it. We have to take time to really grind it out and make an intentional effort. Genuinely working it out, not just kicking people out. The easy road has gotten us to a place we can’t even talk to each other.
* QUESTION – Mrs. Ferrell, What is the role of faith moving forward with this community as we deal with this process? Faith moving forward means first we have to forgive. If I don’t forgive hate builds up. I love God first of all, I loved my son. I want peace I love peace, but I must fight on behalf of my son. Faith is first being a lover of God.
* Willie shard that most people are lacking faith and belief. We have to have these conversations because this is not just affecting Blacks, these situations ae touching the lower and middle class. People of faith must start sharing our testimonies.
* QUESTION: The next question was direct to Cornie Mack – Who holds who accountable? “I hold myself accountable,” she said. The bottom line is when you know somebody is incorrect – check them. Check yourself, before you wreck yourself.” Love corrects. If you’re wrong, I’m going to check you. I am not going to allow this city to be another Baltimore or another Ferguson. Charlotte has been facets and faces. If at the end of the day, you have a problem with me, come have a conversation. We’ve got to step out in faith. God knows what’s going to happen – it’s predestined. God’s waiting on us to do our part.
* Marcelle: How do we hold one another accountable? I think Speaking truth to power” is one of the most fundamental things. We cannot be afraid to talk to those we have elected to political positions. The community had trusted them to get out there and work for us. Let them know, it is your duty to fight – and it is our duty to win. There are people in elected positions who aren’t doing anything. “Shout out to all politicians that are in this room!,” she said.
* Willie noted, one person can’t raise a child – it takes a village to raise a child. However, most parents have seen their child do wrong, but take up for them anyway. Any adult should be able to put a child in their place without having problems from their parents. “Social media is killing us. It’s the best and worst thing that could happen to the lower and middle class. I don’t want to see you fight unless you’re being paid to fight – like boxing or wrestling. Street fighting is the most ignorant thing ever – just to get likes. We must make ourselves look better on social media,” he said.
* AUDIENCE QUESTION – How should one respond when doing the right thing and still being targeted by authority figures? There is something called White privilege – We keep hearing and saying, “All Lives Matter.” It’s clear that Black lives don’t matter. When systemically Blacks have been oppressed beyond slavery. In the areas of education, lack of jobs for African Americans, etc. There are two blocks separating Grier Heights and Randolph Road. We’re in a city that’s number 3, when all the money is going to uptown Charlotte. People are talking about how goon uptown Charlotte is when afterschool programs are being cut. Blacks have been systemically oppressed. For those that think they have arrived, when the cop stops you see where you arrive. “I always pray, but, prayer without works is dead,” Mack said. We have to get to doing the work. I love charlotte, but there’s a spirit of covertness – where people like to steal your ideas. And an insidious lying spirit – where people will look you in your face and lie, while doing everything they can to tear down what you’re doing. “We as a people have a responsibility – one to another to make sure all lives matter. Mississippi and Alabama are doing better than Charlotte.
* AUDIENCE QUESTION: Tommie Robinson asked why we are always blaming ourselves for any condition that ever happens. Marcelle spoke to that saying, “I think that is a really profound statement– “no one wants to feel powerless – when you realize boot-strapping is alive. We do have power. There are things that are working. Blaming ourselves is a system of White supremacy. Look at Re-construction 4 years are so after slavery we were in the Senate – then systems have been put in place to keep us from excelling in education, family, and more. We have to open up. Charlotte is a sleeping giant that is starting to wake up, she concluded.
* Final question, each “Blessed are those that keep it short for they shall” How do we heal? Open your heart to love, Corine. Honesty – Marcelle. Faith, prayer and belief – Willie. Faith, prayer, belief and a trinity – Georgia Ferrell.
Panelists representing policy and legislation were: Civil Rights Attorney, Christopher Chestnut; Rep. John R. King, SC State House District 49, Sara Preston, Executive Director ACLU of NC, and Rep. Rodney Moore, NC State House Rep. District 99.
First question was: How do you use policy and legislation to heal our community. From Rock Hill, Rep. King has served in the House of Representatives for 8 years- After sharing, he cleared the slate saying, “I’m not one of those that does not do anything. He looked at what problems are, and then looked across the aisle and realized that to get anything passed you have to work with the Republicans. If I put forth legislation it’s never heard. If it’s good, they take the Black legislation and put their names on it. As Black legislators we have to understand the dynamics of our state and work within those parameters to get things passed. It’s not that I’m selling out. I work to get things done for my community. Rep. Moore, whose been in office for five years, noted that SC legislators must be better than NC. He too talked to the problem of getting things passed. Upon taking his seat, he was informed by a seated legislator that the only thing you’re going to be able to say is “No.” Moore noted that he will never sell out his core principles, but works to get thing done for his constituency. He spoke to the murder incidents around the country were – we put a common since legislation together for people who have no regard to profiling – it’s wrong. Moore closed by saying, “Trust and believe we will continue to fight for our constituents, and particularly for those in our communities.” Atty. Chestnut said when candidates come to your church and speaks prior to election; ask them, “What does this look like for my community? And hold them accountable. When they don’t work – don’t re-elect them. Also have to look at the criminal justice department. We have to begin to demand. Private schools are good; just pay your own tuition. Let’s do a comparison for 30 years for dope, but worried that we can’t 3 years for murder. Vote locally you must vote consistently. Government transparency has always been an issue for ACLU; therefore they are looking at policy and trying to get those policies changed.
King said, first, we should not allow anyone to define who our leader is. The people you have elected must be held accountable, or don’t elect them all the time. Leaders must take responsibility.
Question 2 was for all panelists: Who in Charlotte has the ability to call the community together and the community would come and work together. The answer Ratchford got in a previous setting was, “That person does not exist in Charlotte. Therefore, “Who do we look to for leadership?” Moore said, “The community looks to itself.” It does not matter who brings this forth, but the mission must be done.
Prior to the discussion, I had an opportunity to ask several attendees why they came. Tommie Robinson, a resident of the Eastern part of North Carolina replied, “Rep. Rodney Moore asked me to come to hear what’s going on. I didn’t come to hear a guilty plea. I want to wait for the judicial process to be finished because I don’t know what it will reveal. And, I hope everyone waits before beginning to protest.”
The true common denominators for the evening were; we must and can heal, however, we must work and have the committed support of a new set of lawmakers.