Find your source of inspiration, whatever it is, to find that inner peace.
Teach your children well because often it’s the only real recourse.
Register to vote so that you too someday can sit on a jury and play an active role in the criminal justice system — for better or for worse.
In the end, if you should find yourself walking down the street, and you feel that people are staring at you like some sort of criminal, throw your hands up in the air and say, “I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just going home.”
But whatever you do, don’t rely too much on the good faith of others. It’s better to rely on yourself.
These were just a few of the pieces of advice doled out to a frustrated crowd of nearly 300 people who attended a community forum at the Pearson Community Center in North Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
Held in the heart of the African-American community, the forum was part spiritual, part civics lesson and full of compelling testimonies from real people who have been victims of racial profiling.
The forum was designed to pose questions and provide solutions just four days after a six-woman jury in Florida exonerated George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.
It’s the first time that Las Vegas has entered what has become a national debate — one that has divided the country and put a spotlight on racial profiling. Not since the beating of Rodney King and the acquittal of Los Angeles police officers in 1992 have such emotions run as high.
“You can complain all you want about the jury. You can complain about them from now until the time Jesus comes back, and I hope that’s soon. But nothing is going to change until you actually sit on a jury,” said the Rev. Robert Fowler, a crowd favorite who preaches nearby at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church.
The fact that there has been no violence in Las Vegas was something the town hall’s panel pointed out proudly. Among them were Democratic state Sen. Aaron Ford, Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal, Laura Martin of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Lt. William Scot, a veteran officer with the Metropolitan Police Department.
Michael Flores, who organized the forum on behalf of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., said the black community has changed a great deal in the past two decades.
It’s more organized, he said. It’s more thoughtful, less reactive, more proactive. Social media reigns. These days, they’re signing petitions with the NAACP, hoping that Zimmerman is prosecuted in a civil court of law for lack of what they perceive was his just due in criminal court.
“When the Rodney King riots happened, they entire West Side was blocked off, and people were trapped. It was an ugly scene, at least so I’ve been told,” said the 25-year-old Flores, a community activist. “It’s not that people don’t care this time. They do. It’s just that people are looking for different ways to vent. It’s more productive than breaking windows and causing havoc.”
And yet racial profiling is real, the panel concurred. Racism is real. It’s gotten to the point where Ford, a lawyer by trade, admonishes his children to refrain from making up their hair in “corn rows” — if only to avoid the potential for problems.
And if worst comes to worst, and they feel like they’re a situation similar to what Trayvon Martin experienced, he tells them to throw their hands in the air to avoid any conflict and to play it safe.
Neal, who was visibly angry while rehashing the Zimmerman case to the crowd, pointed out that there are simple laws on the books that should be followed, and that it has nothing to do with self-defense or the now antiquated but controversial “stand your ground’ laws.
“There is a code of conduct, it’s called ‘Call Your Police, not your Neighborhood Watch,” she said.
But perhaps one of the most thought-provoking comments came from Louis Thomas, a 23-year-old North Las Vegas man who impersonated Trayvon Martin by wearing a hoodie, addressing the crowd, telling them: “I am Trayvon Martin.”
He reminded the crowd of the real problem, which can be found in the streets surrounding the community center — black-on-black violence, which more often than not is met with complacency in the black community.
“Ya’ll don’t trip when a brother kills a brother,” he said. “Teach your kids to love one another.”
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.