Earlier this month two dozen community members varying in age, race and socioeconomic status gathered in the sanctuary of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church with a mission of challenging and expanding our current definition of public safety. The important discussion, hosted by the New Florida Majority was welcomed by Mt. Sinai Pastor R.L. Gundy and was one of several that was held nationwide as part of the National Night Out for Safety and Liberation as part of the National Night Out for Safety and Liberation. NOSL was created by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Justice for Families. The annual event, which takes place the first Tuesday of August, is an opportunity for communities across the country come together to redefine and re-imagine what public safety means.
The diversity of community members propelled the conversation, leading to an environment where attendees truly listened to each other with a goal of better understanding the dynamics of their respective communities. New Florida Majority North Florida Regional Director, Mone Holder believes that events like NOSL are necessary to build equitable communities.
“Creating the space for people of various races, ages and class to define what safety is, is essential to building a true sense of community,” said Holder.
REAL TALK ABOUT REAL PROBLEMS
The night began with NewFM Lead Organizer, Devin Coleman asking the audience one question: “What do you need to feel safe in your community?” An older woman immediately voiced her concern for her own safety, stating that her house was once robbed while she was away. She stated that she would like to see heightened police presence in her neighborhood. Other community members challenged this notion, believing that increased police presence will not solve the problem, but knowing your neighbors, creating a sense of community and creating equitable education opportunities including affordable early childhood education, summer programs and after school activities are all alternative solutions to neighborhood crime.
“The content of the conversation was excellent and needed because it was led by people from different demographics,” said Devin Coleman. “We need to take a look at what we need and reach out in order to get those needs met either internally through community or externally through elected officials. We need to bring the word neighbor back into neighborhood. Community members need to have a strengthened commitment to one another.”
Participants agreed that to create safer and healthier communities, we must build power and equity in our neighborhoods and build connections between neighbors.
“I agree that we have to get to know our neighbors. I also think that we need to create the legislative policies that will alleviate our concerns,” said Jacksonville native Deidra Washington. “Whether that be related to a lack of transportation, education or mass incarceration.”