On Friday, June 16th, I attended The Charleston Forum, a public discussion on numerous important issues facing our city and state. The event, held at the Charleston Music Hall, featured numerous panels and speakers addressing racial issues in the context of different subject areas.
Here are a few of the best quotes/moments from the forum:
Criminal Justice and Policing Panel
- "We can't change what we don't talk about" - DeRay Mckesson, civil rights activist
- "People want to have the conversation about how we can get to a better place, but they don't want to talk about how we got here" - Mckesson
- "Police shouldn't get a pat on the back just because they didn't kill someone" - Mckesson
- "I'm not as interested in what we say today as I am in what we do tomorrow" - State Senator Gerald Malloy
- "We need to take the 'P' out of 'politics' and 'party' and back into 'people'" - State Senator Malloy on how politicians can help
- "You can't arrest your way out of an epidemic. You need rehabilitation" - Jane Castor, Tampa's former police chief, on the war on drugs
- Meckesson compared activism to going to the gym, saying people like to be seen there, but what are you actually doing?
Future of the Past
- Dr. Blain Roberts, Associate Professor at Fresno State, said resistance in Charleston wasn't new, but taking actual action needs to be.
- State Senator Paul Campbell, when asked, said the Calhoun statue will "never come down" due to the two-thirds vote required by the Heritage Act.
- Rev. Nelson Rivers III said the Heritage Act was only meant to protect "that flag," (Confederate Flag) not monuments like Demark Vesey's.
- "We've got a lot of toy soldiers and guys playing dress up on the weekend that want to keep that flag alive" - Rev. Rivers
Economics and Education Panel
- "There's nothing wrong with the fish, the water is all jacked up!" - Rev. Rivers on the assumption that kids in underfunded schools are the problem
- "Part of the problem in education is us. We've accepted this system" - Godfrey Gibbison, associate professor of economics and dean of the School of Professional Studies at the College of Charleston
- "The folks that can help the most, are doing the least" - Rev. Rivers
- Rev. Rivers said more STEM education is needed in poorer schools. Many jobs require a background in that.
- "People are hurt by systems every day. We can't just react when something horrible happens. Museums are nice, but it doesn't fix the systems" - Malcolm Graham, former North Carolina State Senator. His sister, Cynthia Hurd, was murdered in the Charleston church shooting
Finding a Solution
- "Charleston was different...You were better, and you made America proud" CNN commentator Margaret Hoover on the city's response to the church shooting
- Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the police department has worked on cultural awareness and added deescalation and mental health training to better assist the community
- "We've all heard the Orangeburg Massacre story, but there's a kid out there reading a rant on Brietbart that needs to hear it too" - CNN commentator Bakari Sellars
- "We are all God's children and we can be a guiding light on how to turn tragedy into triumph" - Rev. Kylon Middleton
- "We have to ask ourselves if we will be the carrier of the cure, or the carrier of the disease" - U.S. Senator Tim Scott
- "We should always be in pursuit of a more perfect union" - U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn, referencing a line in the U.S. Constitution
- "It's one thing to enjoy the city of Charleston; it's another thing to experience the county of Charleston. We have work to do" - Rep. Clyburn
- "Ask yourself: Am I doing all I can do to make Charleston better...and America greater?" - Rep. Clyburn
For more information on The Charleston Forum, visit https://www.thecharlestonforum.com/.