The first in what’s expected to be an ongoing series of conversations between law enforcement and African American youth took place on Jacksonville's Northside Tuesday night.
More than 150 young people between 8 and 19 years old sat down to talk with a half dozen or so police officers in the sanctuary of St. Paul Missionary Church across the street from Ribault High School.
The goal, said St. Paul pastor Reverend John Guns, was to foster mutual understanding and respect so that what happened in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of 18 year old Michael Brown might never happen here.
“Any city’s vulnerable and anyone who believes it isn’t, they’re not living in reality. So maybe one young person will be able to walk away and influence his peers and say, let’s see how we can make this better for all of us," he said.
Guns made it clear to the grown-ups in the room that the evening was not about them.
“This is not a political forum. This is not a venting forum. This is a conversation between young people and law enforcement. Amen. The conversation is them. And so I need [the adults] to understand that we do not control the conversation.”
The event was organized by Operation Save Our Sons, a local organization dedicated to helping young black males survive and thrive in today’s world. A second one is being planned for October.
You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews