published Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Healing and truth-telling: Forum passions show reconciliation will take concerted effort

Larry High speaks during the panel discussion for the Times Free Press story "Speak No Evil" on Thursday at the Bethlehem Center in Chattanooga.
Larry High speaks during the panel discussion for the Times Free Press story "Speak No Evil" on Thursday at the Bethlehem Center in Chattanooga.
Photo by Maura Friedman /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Violence is violence. It has no color," said Gretta Bush, who leads an anti-violence nonprofit in High Point, N.C, during a Times Free Press sponsored forum Thursday billed as a discussion on race, reconciliation and truth telling.

But the crowd would have none of it. "Yes it does," people shouted back at her when she said color doesn't matter.

Years -- decades -- of pain, resentment and distrust swelled and overflowed the gymnasium of Bethlehem Community Center in Chattanooga's Alton Park Thursday night.

The forum -- intended to answer why the inner-city residents have developed a code of silence that deepens the community's isolation and breeds retaliatory vigilantism in black-on-black crime -- came on the heels of a year with more than 100 shootings, a city announcement of a new "violence reduction initiative" and the roundup of 32 black men that city authorities labeled "the worst of the worst." The paper ran the 32 faces and that label on the front page -- something else that outraged the community.

"There's [also] a code of silence in the white community," belted Kevin Muhammad, a Nation of Islam youth worker. "The guilty ones are the ones who cause the darkness. ... People have died in this community in custody at the hands of police and the District Attorney Bill Cox has not indicted anyone. ...You cannot ask something of us that you do not do yourselves."

There were other angry voices.

"Will Chattanooga make a real commitment to end poverty and racism?" asked Janelle Jackson.

"Our kids need jobs. It used to be the kids could always go to the factories, like U.S. Pipe. But they left town. [Now] what's our young people to do?" said a man with a booming voice.

"The same blighted conditions we had here 27 years ago are still here today. Who's allowed that to happen? You!" Kurt Robinson told the crowd. "You're the ones who allow the same people to get elected over and over, and they get in their offices ... and get fat."

"My heart hurts," said Judy Corn, who is white. "If we don't love each other we cannot win," The crowd applauded. But then she took on Muhammad. "Hate will never win. I hear you question motives. What is your motive? Do you come to heal or do you come to incite?"

Charmaine Goins, a former gang member who now helps community members start businesses, spoke up: "I'm a former gang member. I've been in prison. ... We've got to stand up. ... What changes the world is hope."

Cynthia Stanley Cash said the "think tank" people who are behind the new violence reduction initiative needed to include the community. "They don't live where we do," she said. "It's insulting when they don't include longtime groups here."

"Where is the mayor? Where is the police chief," someone screamed out.

The passions surprised many. And not just the white people in attendance. Even former Howard High School principal and new public safety coordinator Paul Smith said it's clear the city has it's work cut out to repair the lost trust.

"What this has done is rip the Band-Aid off a gaping wound," said Ash-Lee Henderson, a member of Concerned Citizens for Justice, who questioned the forum's goal.

Perhaps she's right. And her imagery is dead on. For decades, Chattanooga has put a Band-aid on race relations, poverty and classism. But Band-Aids can't do much to heal gaping wounds.

It's time for more than just the newest shiny initiative, offered to the community by a police round-up, a press conference and a one-man city ambassador who is a former high school principal.

Mayor, if you want buy-in on this program, you may have to take it to the streets in person. And you'll have to stay long enough to listen.

You gained high marks when you went to bat for Patten Towers residents last spring after they were left on the street when the smoke cleared from a fire in a ridiculously neglected century-old hotel turned low-income apartment house. Your visits to those residents as they sat on cots at the Salvation Army showed Chattanooga a caring face with the power to make improvements.

If you want this to work, if you want Chattanooga to heal, if you want this to be a place peaceful enough to lure new jobs (and we know you want all of those things), then it's time for that Andy Berke to come out of City Hall again.

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conservative said...

Well it seems the mayor and the police did not apologize for something.

Poor Ms. Sohn's pleadings for the police to apologize for something fell on deaf ears.

I guess the killing and the silence about who did the killing will just continue.

December 21, 2013 at 7:19 a.m.
una61 said...

How many managers and feature writers employed by the TFP are African-American?

December 21, 2013 at 8:01 a.m.
jjmez said...

There is no place that don't snitch policy is more intense and profound than in the ranks of most any and every police agency around the nation. When they clean up and clean out their own dirt these communities will begin to heal, flourish and thrive on their own volition. As it presently stands, black communities have become nothing more than job guarantee and a source for promotions. Do they actually believe those who are benefitting from their plight are actually serious about fixing it?

The greatest drawback and hold-back in the black community is they don't trust themselves to come together to reach out and uplift one another. They foolishly believe the answers to all their problems lie in outsiders telling them what wrong. Over 500 years later their communities remain like a smaller version of Africa; still being ripped, ravished and raped by outsiders fighting to gain control of all their natural resources they don't realize they have.

Hopefully, if there are future meetings they will be held in a more secular environment, and also one where there's more interaction than people sitting up on a stage looking down upon their subjects. I came, but left early because of the bad acoustics and you couldn't even hear much of what was being said.

And the reason the Highpoint Initiative might not work in Chattanooga is because the reasons behind what has taken place in Chattanooga's black communities is totally different from what and why Highpoint had its problems. There's a feeling of insincerity here that doesn't appear to have been a part of the High approach in N.C.

December 21, 2013 at 8:52 a.m.
jjmez said...

"I guess the killing and the silence about who did the killing will just continue."

Conserv. did it ever occur to you or anyone the people may not know who's behind these killings? That there are possibly outside forces, with no connections to these communities, that may have played a role in a lot of what's been taking place in these communities?

December 21, 2013 at 9:06 a.m.
conservative said...

Did it ever occur to you that you are the only one who believes what you wrote?

Surely it had to "occur" to you who those "outside forces" might be.

Why the "silence?"

December 21, 2013 at 9:32 a.m.
jjmez said...

No, conserve. I'm not the only one who believes what I wrote. This is a heavily impression, with reason, and not just from within the black community.

December 21, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.
conservative said...

Well then, who are these others?

Why didn't you inform Ms. Sohn and Mr. Cook of these "outside forces" in order to stop the killings?

Don't you care?

Again, why the "silence?"

December 21, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.
jesse said...

JJ is talkin from where the sun don't shine!!AS USUAL!!He's been on this kick about the police from day one on here! Back beyond say 1960 there may have been a blue wall of silence but no more! Now they put each other in jail!!Remember the sgt. that got busted at riverbend for drinkin on the job? Not too long ago a city cop put a state trooper in jail for dui ,so there ya go!!

December 21, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.
jjmez said...

That blue wall of silence is just as strong today as it was back the 1960s. The ones you see getting thrown under the bus were likely not considered team players and the department wanted to get rid of anyway. Just try filing a complaint against a bad cop the department likes and want to retain, and you'll see how they'll come after you, your family and anyone else closely associated with you by all kinds of means at their disposal.

Im not speaking from where the sun doesn't shine, but from personal experience of myself and others.

As they've presently come to operate in many of these communities, the communities are better off without them. In fact, with technology as advanced as it's become today, the average street, or patrol cop should be on the way out like the dinosaur. Firemen are pretty much still needed to put out or control fires, but any traffic camera can write out a speeding ticket or catch a crook committing a crime. I see an elite, educated unit on the horizon, but low level street cops are no longer necessary in a technologically advanced society.

December 21, 2013 at 1:15 p.m.
sagoyewatha said...

The so called Split or divide has more to do with BEHAVIOR than with race or color. Who wants to be around or do anything for morons that act like animals and do not work or get an education and see no problem with not doing one thing for the community? That so called code is the "code of the punk," scared to tell the truth or take responsibility. Let's face it, just about every city in the USA now has an MLK Blvd, which one do you want to take your family and belongings and move to? Scream, yell,whine all you want, until you take personal responsibility you are just spitting in the wind.

December 21, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.
sagoyewatha said...

jjmez, here's some info for you. YOUR personal experience is the nadir of research. So is your knowledge. The City of Boston thought they could do without police one day. They never tried that again, anyplace in America. People with brains learn from the past. There's tons of info on the "Boston Police Strike." Check it out.Apparently you have figured out the same "secret agents" who brought dope to the underclass so they could go into business, have also been going around doing the shootings and other crimes. The people who are apprehended, convicted, sentenced...then released a couple of months later are actually just innocents who were on the way home from church when some evil police with nothing to do framed them. You sir, are a real whizz bang!

December 21, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.
TheCommander said...

Rosa Koire wrote in her book - Behind the Green Mask: UN Agenda 21 "Community Orientated Policing (under the Department of Justice) will encourage, if not require, people to watch their neighbors and report suspicious activity."

The TFP focus on violence and the community input meeting was nothing but another example of the unholy alliance between big government and big media to crush the rights of the poor with another federal program.

I urge everyone to Google and read the 40+ page document on this High Point program and then ask yourself if you, the mayor, or any council member would ever allow such a thing in your/their neighborhood.

Obviously Chattanooga government in its desperation for federal dollars prostituted its most vulnerable citizens once again for another failed government program that will make the folks at ICLEI very happy.

December 21, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.
jjmez said...

sagoyewatha if it's anything like the Boston police I recall, they were likely the ones committing the crimes themselves. Boston police were once riddled with mafia types. Now, most are just brutes.

Re: *Who wants to be around or do anything for morons that act like animals *

I agree. Who wants cops police their communities who behave worst than wild animals roaming in packs?

December 21, 2013 at 7:48 p.m.
jjmez said...

The Commander said... Behind the Green Mask: UN Agenda 21 "Community Orientated Policing (under the Department of Justice) will encourage, if not require, people to watch their neighbors and report suspicious activity."

I'm with you. the Highpoint Initiative can and will only cause matters to worsen and deteriorate more than they already have in these communities. This approach has already been tried in some Chattanooga communities. In some racially and classed mixed communities, it created a lot of harsh feelings, false claims and false accusations against innocent neighbors and brought about even more division, suspicions, frictions and hostilities throughout communities. A small few formed personal friendships and started a campaign to run fellow neighbors from the communities they felt didn't belong or weren't the right shade. It became more about race and class than keeping communities safe. There's already divisions in many of these communities brought on by this by this approach. There are neighbors living next door to one another who no longer even speak, talk to or socialize with one another, the hostility and mistrust is now so great. You had people following neighbors through communities with their guns in preparation, even looking for an excuse. Just another SYG tragedy waiting to happen.

December 21, 2013 at 7:59 p.m.
TheCommander said...

thanks jj.

there is one guy in Pam's article who gets it. I think what he said is brilliant and very accurate:

"The same blighted conditions we had here 27 years ago are still here today. Who's allowed that to happen? You!" Kurt Robinson told the crowd. "You're the ones who allow the same people to get elected over and over, and they get in their offices ... and get fat."

Mr. Robinson is right I'm afraid in everything he said. Everyone on this thread needs to roll his words over a few times in your mind.

December 21, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
sagoyewatha said...

Same park, different trailers.jjmiz,to repeat, your personal experience is the nadir of means nothing. It could mean that if you rely on 20 years experience you are talking about one year of repeating your first year's mistakes. Do you have any proof for any of the idiotic statements you are making? Of course not. I want to personally invite all to attend the secret meeting between the government and the media to crush the poor and helpless. Why? Well, because the poor and helpless need to be crushed. Please engage brains before putting mouths in gear.

December 22, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.
schizka said...

It's so great a tragedy that many of the individuals in these communities rarely get to see or experience the honorable side of policing. Over the years too man thugs were allowed on the force, and they have forever tainted and done irreparable damage to both the profession and the communities they were suppose to serve and protect.

December 22, 2013 at 1:59 p.m.
sagoyewatha said...

schizka, what is a "too man thugs?" Can you name any? What department did they represent? Who did they thug on? Did one of them specifically thug on you What ever happened to these creatures? Thanks in advance for providing me with this accurate intelligence as I will need it to debate this issue at the next clandestine meeting of the government and big press as we work out new and devious ways to crush the poor and weak. There was some discussion of forcing them to work or get an education, but the powers that be gave up on that tactic.

December 22, 2013 at 6:23 p.m.
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