RealTalk – Moving Forward Community Forum

TVEPLogo1-originalsize (2)“This event was very insightful; to hear people care about and discuss racial profiling makes me feel better about the situation [George Zimmerman verdict]” – Tim Gallon, recent AL Brown High School graduate and attendant at “Moving Forward – Community Forum”

On Sunday, July 28, 2013, more than 25 guests gathered for The Vine Event’s “Moving Forward- Community Forum” hosted at Westridge Place Clubhouse in Salisbury, NC. In light of the recent shootings that occurred in Clancy Hill Apartments nearby (click here to read more), The Vine’s discussion about NC Law, civic engagement, and community involvement could not have come at a better time. The purpose of the forum was to openly discuss the George Zimmerman verdict and how we can move forward as a community. Guest facilitators included Kristen Thompson Esq. of The Thompson Law Office, PLLC, Anthony Smith of Rowan Concerned Citizens, and Mercedes Harrington of Everything Under The Sun PR.

NC Law

Thompson contributed a legal point of view to the discussion by comparing North Carolina’s Castle Doctrine to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. According to Thompson, the two laws are very similar; both allow you to use force (even fatal) to prevent unlawful happenings in a private place (ie. home, car, or workplace). The only difference is the Stand Your Ground Law applies to anywhere you are lawfully, not just private places. After explaining the Castle Doctrine, Thompson opened the floor for discussion about the NC law and invited guests to ask questions pertaining to Zimmerman’s trial and verdict. These questions ranged from inquiry about jury selection, to what the prosecutor could have done differently to successfully convict Zimmerman of a crime.

Civic Engagement

Smith spoke to the group about the importance of voting to ensure laws like the Castle Doctrine don’t turn into another Stand Your Ground Law. According to Smith, only 14 percent of Rowan county citizens voted in the 2011 Municipal Election. So what is the solution to this staggering low voter turnout? Smith said citizenship engagement through citizenship education. His main message to the group was to never get comfortable; a healthy democracy depends on citizens being awake and paying attention to the issues around them. “In order for democracy to be healthy, you need a diverse group of voices represented,” said Smith. “When you have a small group of people making decisions on behalf of everyone else, this is when things fall off.”

Community Involvement

Harrington talked about how as a community we can be active and engaged. She said educating our children is a key to bringing about change. Several guests shared personal anecdotes about how they used the Trayvon Martin tragedy to teach their children important lessons about race. Harrington also said you can get involved with making a difference by letting your voice be heard. One way you can do this is by writing a blog, speaking out in an open forum, or getting involved with your local community.

The dialogue concluded with a final thought shared by Keesha Reynolds, an event guest, “My skin is my hoodie and I can’t take that off.” This statement emphasizes that there’s still a need for racial reconciliation in America. The Vine Events believes reconcilement starts with open and honest dialogue…
For people to be able to sit down together and have a conversation, that’s the power of love. – Jada Pinkett Smith

Desere’ Cross
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Journalism and Communication Studies Major
Class of 2014