About 150 people from across Georgia attended a discussion in Macon on Saturday concerning confrontations between police and young black males in the past year that have turned deadly.
The Black Lives Matter Panel Discussion at Community Church of God was part of Georgia NAACP’s quarterly meeting held at the church. While the discussion included plenty of criticism of the police, it touched on a wide range of topics, including fatherless homes.
The panelists included Yolanda Johnson, program director of Street Law in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Street Law has a program that works with young males who have been in the Washington juvenile justice system and are now on probation.
“We take those young men and we teach them how to engage civically,” she said.
That includes training the youth in how to engage with police officers, and training police officers how to deal with youth.
Johnson said police officers have given positive feedback on the training and are seeking it out.
“The work that we do with young people is wonderful, but what I’ve seen that’s even better is the effect that it has had on police officers,” she said.
She said she has spoken with the Georgia NAACP about starting the program in Georgia.
Another panelist, Lemuel LaRoche, is founder and director of Chess and Community Conference in Athens. He uses chess as an analogy of life to teach young people how to think ahead and think strategically.
He said both police officers and youth are “programmed” by television and movies to deal with each other in a certain way, and that is often why confrontations turn violent.
“The idea is, how do we reprogram the police officer and in the same breath, how do we reprogram our youth?” he said.
LaRoche also said that the media wants “to see this race war.”
“We can either feed it, we can react to that, or we can be smarter and do it a better way,” he said.
Demetrius Fisher, who is over state programs for the Georgia NAACP, was not a part of the panel discussion but said beforehand that he hopes it will have a positive impact. The day-long meeting also included training of members on how to help youth in their communities.
“We want them to know where resources are available when the momentum dies down around Ferguson,” he said. “We want to be connected to they can continue to left their voice in a real way.”
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.