Speak out healing circle launches community dialogue

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The question on the minds of millions of Americans after the fatal shootings of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and the vengeful sniper attack killing five police officers in Dallas is probably, “where do we go from here?”

Many community organizations across America may see this dire sequence of events as an opportunity to have open honest dialogue and agree to disagree but be willing to find a way to work together and lay to rest the carcinogenic effects of racism.

Last Saturday, July 9, the Bay Area Dream Defenders held a speak-out community forum to begin an open dialogue at Spa Beach. Interestingly enough, the City of St. Petersburg had to be taken to court in the late 1950s and forced to integrate the very same beach that played host to the peaceful rally.

People of multiple ethnic backgrounds from all corners of St. Pete gathered, opened up, consoled one another and shared their views not only on what happened nationally in the last week, but also on what has been happening in their lives on a daily basis.

Esther Tracy Eugene, who immigrated to Florida with her parents from Jamaica when she was eight years old, shared an experience that spotlighted the dark psychosis of racism.

“I’m confused,” said Eugene, a 41-year-old African-American woman with a master’s degree, “because as a child from Jamaica, our motto is ‘out of many people come one.’”

Eugene explained that she didn’t realize she was black until coming to America. She didn’t understand why she was not allowed in Gulfport or on Central Avenue. While in New York she thought she wouldn’t have to live under the oppressive racism of the South, but soon learn that northern racism was just as pervasive.

One mother said she cries when her sons ask if they can go out with friends because she’s afraid they won’t make it back.

Travis Ficocelli talked about the effective role of police in communities.

“They were made to protect and serve, not neglect and distort,” said Ficocelli.

Emotions were running high. Chris Moore, 19, said he felt like shooting a gun after seeing the Castile video because “it didn’t matter anyway.” He said he changed his mind because it would have only make things worse.

Rally goers talked about the power of social media in capturing the final moments of Castile’s life, the sniper attack in Dallas and the “cherry picked” images that are sometimes shown.

“I don’t know if I can change this country, but we can change St. Pete,” said Bay Area Dream Defenders organizer Ashley Green.

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