Florence churches hold race relations panel discussion

There were community leaders, law enforcement and citizens at the meeting.

Posted: Jun 14, 2020 11:27 PM
Updated: Jun 15, 2020 7:37 AM

Florence churches held a race relations panel discussion over the weekend. 

The panel discussion was held Sunday night. This comes after a call to action to end systemic racism in North Alabama.

The event was held at We Are Chapel church in Florence on Cloverdale Road. WAAY 31 was there and learned why the church felt it was important to have this event in Lauderdale County.

The Florence police chief, community leaders and even a former Ku Klux Klan member came there to listen and talk in depth about where the stem of systemic racism starts and how we can make a change.

"How do we bring solutions to this rather than keep defining the problem over and over again?" said Pastor Gourley.

Gourley and his wife put together a panel discussion at We Are Chapel church to have people from the community try and answer that very question. He told WAAY 31 this was to start a discussion about racial injustices and where the root of the issues lies.

He said now is the time to move past protests and begin to figure out how to change the narrative. One of the panelists said he hopes people can do both. He believes this issue can't be solved overnight and wants people to continue to advocate for those who have died from police brutality.

"The hashtag is a representation of George Floyd. It's a representation of Breonna Taylor, of Alton and Jarius, and a representation of Ahmaud Arbery," said James Edwards, who lives in Florence.

Aside from hearing from judges, social work employees and even those in the school system, the crowd also heard from a former Ku Klux Klan member, a man representing the ability to change.

As more than 300 people listened both virtually and in-person, the police chief of Florence took the mic and admitted departments are not hiring enough people of color.

"The problem is not that we're not hiring. The problem is that they're just not applying. How many African American communities do you think are pushing black men and women to become police officers right now?" said Ronald Tyler.

Gourley told WAAY 31 this wont be the last event you'll see like this, as they're working to keep these tough conversations going.

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