The following is from the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race:
Nearly 70 people from SOMa and a few from surrounding towns like West Orange and Irvington joined our 2nd 2016 Coffee House Discussion which was a follow-up dialogue to the #NotinOurTwoTowns event held earlier this summer. Coffee House Discussions is the Coalition’s project that gathers people in small, intimate settings throughout the year to discuss emerging racial integration and justice concerns. Last night’s participants were led in small group discussions at tables facilitated jointly by members of Movement with Purpose and Coalition on Race trustees.
The opening question to stimulate discussion was about policing in our towns: What we can do better? People were invited to share their personal experiences, concerns, and thoughts about improving community relations with police. After talking for over an hour together, the tables shared their main thoughts and ideas for change with the room.
Some of the ideas that came up were: in a towns like ours, given our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we expect not to face issues like racial profiling, but parents still feel a special burden to have ‘the talk’ with their children of color about how to act and respond when stopped for any reason by police. Many of the tables agreed that police anti-bias and cultural competency training is important and that building relationships between the police and youth is critical for developing mutual respect and understanding. Suggestions included expanding Coffee with a Cop, selecting a Police Officer of the Month as way for residents to read about and get to know local police better, and providing intensive local training on what our towns our like to help the police force understand what we hope to achieve as an integrated community.
We are grateful that representatives from both the Maplewood and South Orange Police participated, along with Village President Sheena Collum, South Orange Trustees Steve Schnall and Walter Clarke. We are especially indebted to the representatives from Movement with Purpose: Felisha George, Emanuel (Manny) Grant, Marquis Alphonso Spottswood, Natasha Rowley, and Berenice Cadeau. Thanks also to the Coffee House Discussions committee–Amy Harris, David Harris, and Joel Herbert. Without all of these community participants committing to engage on difficult topics, we would not be able to move forward in our integration and inclusion mission.
Special thanks to our restaurant host, Chez Dubois of South Orange. The space was perfect, and the restaurant staff did an outstanding job taking food orders while participants were deeply engaged in talking. Special thanks also to Starbucks for providing a full coffee service for the evening. Our community partners are the best!