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DUSON Faculty & Staff Share Their Duke Provost Forum Experience

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Duke Office of the Provost held a forum on Race, Community, and the Pursuit of Justice on March 3 at the Penn Pavilion. The purpose of the forum was to bring together participants coming from multiple vantage points, activists, scholars, and police officers to help better understand the significant tensions that exist between law enforcement and communities of color.

Staff members Keysha Hall, Wendy Perry, Bonita Douglas, Najila McClain and faculty members Jill Brennan-Cook and Lisa Day attended the event. Below Hall, Douglas, McClain and Brennan-Cook share on their experiences.

Hall: "I was thankful for the opportunity to attend this event. The forum was an emotionally grueling one to attend that fostered being confronted with an uncomfortable topic, graphic imagery, intense emotions and conversations that were empathetic and painful to hear. The panelists provided information on the problem, provided viable solutions and information on becoming advocates for change. There were two very difficult parts of the day: one involved watching a documentary by Katina Parker comprised of images of various police involved shootings and words of that had me shaking and in tears. I’ve seen the images, but having them all together was gut wrenching to say the least. The other involved a panel on parents dealing with the aftermath of police violence featuring Michael Brown, Sr and Rolanda Boyd (Akiel Denkins' mother), who recounted their respective son’s life and untimely tragic deaths. You could see the pain in their eyes and hear it in their voices, but they called on everyone to be more vigilant for change, in a non-violent way."

Brennan-Cook: "I can certainly say this event challenged all of us to reflect and feel the pain experienced by communities of color. Throughout the day, there were numerous speakers that addressed the multiple components related to the history of police and civilian interactions, current concerns of those same interactions by activists, protestors, reporters and policy experts. Faith based representatives and  law professors presented perspectives on power, justice and community involvement. I think everyone who attended would agree that the most challenging part of the day was watching the documentary of many police shooting videos. Attending the forum encouraged me to seek greater truth and understanding of the pain experienced by communities of color, and it further inspired me to continue the conversation at DUSON in the hopes of addressing solutions."

Douglas: "Let me start by saying the forum was phenomenal. It was more than I expected. The content was well thought out and conveyed to the audience in a relatable manner. I personally was moved to tears because I have 30 year old nephew and I am fearful EVERYDAY for his life. I can’t imagine not having him in my life because of a senseless act on behalf of law enforcement. I believe the panels were sincere and they know the struggles of the law enforcement officers and our black men. It was great to hear from both sides. I would like to do more to bring awareness of these issues and would welcome any assistance from my DUSON family."

McClain: "I was excited for the opportunity to attend the forum with curiosity as to how, and if such a controversial topic that has divided a nation into screaming matches of ‘who lives matter” could be presented in such a trusted community of students, faculty, staff and greater Durham community. I felt the topic was handled masterfully! The facilitators and panelists reflected the heightened sense of growing distrust while acknowledging real emotion and baring witness to revealing truths of this historic civil rights issue. The most powerful moment for me was the presentation from a protester and hearing about her call to action. And I was most inspired by another voice - the campaign director for the Color of Change organization. He offered that solutions will be found in partnering with others who are doing the work, and suggested to get involved with sustainable movements. I walked away that evening encouraged because discussions like this, with audiences of so many great minds indicate that the beginnings of significant change is possible, where we are, right here."