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Heres what happened at the ‘Black Lives Been Mattered’ forum hosted by DaBaby

 By Ryen Thomas

June 20, 2020

George Floyd was tragically killed in Minneapolis by the hands of the police weeks ago and since then, protests have ensued across the world, mobilizing in solidarity under the banner Black Lives Matter.

On Friday, June 19 (also known as Juneteenth) at 12:30 p.m. at Harvey B. Gantt Center, Ohio-born and Charlotte-raised Grammy-nominated rapper, DaBaby (Jonathan Kirk) called together city officials and organizers for a discussion about current events.

“I have had my own experience with the police. It’s time to have a serious conversation about police reform and systemic racism in our city. Black Lives been mattered and always will matter,” DaBaby said in a release sent out prior to the event.

In attendance were Mayor Vi Lyles, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston, former Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, and community organizer Kristie Puckett-Williams, a Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice manager for the ACLU.

A crowd of local citizens and community organizers joined the forum, abiding by COVID-19 guidelines with masks and social distancing. But more importantly, they were armed with questions to unload on the panel. DaBaby made it clear in beginning his intention for the event: “Getting those voices heard, those statements heard, those opinions heard, in a room full of respected individuals, I just feel like it was important.”

Attendees in the audience voiced their frustrations over the lack of change in the city as Mayor Vi Lyles said, “You’ve got to show up, speak out and vote” and encouraged citizens to take their complaints to the state capital.

Thursday, the day before the forum, authorities arrested 43 people refusing to disperse from a jail support site set up outside the Mecklenburg County Detention Center in Charlotte; an action provoking activist to declare that CMPD aims to stifle the voice of the people.

Sheriff McFadden has claimed people infiltrated the protest, blocked a bus lane and harassed officers. During the conference, he sought to distance himself from CMPD. “We’re not the police…we’re the Sheriff’s office.” He later seethed, “what you saw yesterday was somebody trying to take the movement out of your hands” He then pushed, “Don’t let anyone take this movement from us.

McFadden then drew attention to how a school rock, which read “Black Lives Matter” was vandalized at Ardrey Kell High School. Upon that, the school’s Student Body President Kayden Hunt, who was in attendance, shared her account of being a person of color in a predominantly white school. Braxton Winston, who has had his own run-ins with the police at several protests, empathized with her story by sharing his own personal experience as a minority student in a mostly white environment.

Kristie Puckett-Williams Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice Manager for the ACLU of North Carolina

Like Winston, panelist Kristie Puckett-Williams, has been on the front lines of protest in Charlotte. She’s been shot at with rubber bullets and was unjustly arrested while peacefully documenting recent marches daily on her Facebook live page. She criticized the police’s escalation of violence: “I’ve been hit by the same rocks that were thrown at the police and the difference is that I didn’t have riot gear to protect me.”

She went on to compare the hostilities between citizens and the police to a bad relationship. “With any abusive relationship, you have to admit that there’s abuse present,” she said. “At what point do we acknowledge that the system is illegitimate?… It was founded on white supremacy that has been perpetuated, and we have to burn it down. We need to stop prosecuting people who are peacefully protesting to burn it down. At what point do we acknowledge the system is more violent and harmful than any individual person has ever been?”

The passionate outcry was met with support and cheers in the room, but Puckett-Williams was brought to tears when Thomas Davis, pledged to donate $100,000 to a Father’s Day bailout fund sponsored by the ACLU of North Carolina, Emancipate North Carolina, Forward Justice and North Carolina Community Bail Fund.

By the end of the event, it was evident that all involved wanted immediate action for change. DaBaby closed the conference by sharing his will to further the conversation and planning for such action regularly.

Watch the full “Black Lives Been Mattered” discussion with DaBaby, Thomas Davis, Braxton Winston, Kristie Puckett Williams, Mayor Vi Lyles, and Sheriff Garry McFadden at Harvey B. Gantt Center.

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