Washington, D.C. millennials worked in small groups to strategize issues of racial, social, and economic injustices at panel discussion.

Over 50 millennials in Washington, D.C. – educators, non-profit professionals, government workers, and students – spent Sunday afternoon creating strategies for civic awareness and engagement in communities of color across the nation. The “Moving from Outrage to Engage,” event Aug. 24 at the Northeast Community Library served as both a safe space for candid expression and a workplace to address racial, social, and economic issues, in response to the killing of an unarmed Black teen at the hands of the police in Ferguson, Mo.

“Moments like this allow us to be awakened, but the problems and activities aren’t new,” said panelist David Johns, an education and workforce development expert.

The gathering was hosted by local non-profits BlackandBrownPeopleVote.org, IMPACT, and Capital Cause. Those in attendance RSVP’d by registering to vote or updating their voter registration, and were encouraged to join the {Enough is Enough} challenge to help others to do the same.

In regards to the killing of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in the St. Louis suburb, a panel discussion included the topic of racial disparities between law enforcement officers and those same officers living in the communities they serve. “What’s fascinating to me is that you can be a policeman in D.C. and live in Virginia or Maryland, or be in the fire department and live in North Carolina,” said panelist Lisa Fager Bediako, health and youth advocate and principle at FreeMind Communications in the District. “What you see in these departments is a generational, systematic and familial legacy of people.”

The need for more officers who live within communities, as well as share the same racial backgrounds is vital, the panelists agreed. “It matters to make sure that are in every space,” said panelist Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, president and CEO of Incite Unlimited. “Sometimes when we’re there, we can make a difference where other folks might not.”

From the discussion was also a consensus of assessing recruitment and training practices of law enforcement officers to better address racial and cultural sensitivities.

Panelists included Howard Jean, education consultant and youth advocate; Damon Jones, founder of STEAM America; Nicole Lee, Esq., civil and human rights expert; and Spencer Overton, CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Northwest D.C.

To address the larger issue of state leaders not reflecting the people they serve, the discussion turned to the lack of involvement of minorities in political processes on the local level. A strategy session allowed four groups to delve into discussions of community leadership, mental and psychological health, law enforcement and policing, and education – all topics that may prevent minorities from becoming civically engaged.

Each group prioritized and shared tasks they can act upon immediately regarding their topics. The results will be compiled into a public report and delivered to the United States Department of Justice.

The event was also a fundraiser for Capital Cause’s #Justice4 Fund to support grants for community organizations and nonprofits that address racial profiling social justice, civil rights and police brutality. “We need to start building this movement,” said Waikinya Clanton, Executive Director of NOBEL Women, “We invest in our appearance, we need to invest in our communities and our children.”

Christina Sturdivant

Special to the AFRO