Zimmerman verdict prompts a discussion in Duluth“It’s prevalent in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our lives,” said Edward Schoenborn. He is talking about racism.
By: Sarah Alabsi, Duluth Budgeteer News
“It’s prevalent in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our lives,” said Edward Schoenborn.
Schoenborn is talking about racism.
Wednesday, Aug. 21, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Duluth branch hosted a community forum called “How to Kill Legally” at the Church of Restoration in Duluth. The forum used the George Zimmerman trial as a segue into a community discussion on the racial climate in America.
“I came because I know if it [the Trayvon Martin shooting] happened there, it can happen here,” said Schoenborn, who works with the Duluth Public Schools to help reintegrate high school dropouts into the education system in Duluth.
The event started off with a reading of “Kids Who Die” by Langston Hughes. The members of the audience then were each given a sheet of paper to describe how they feel the Trayvon Martin shooting affected them, or what shocked them the most about it. These papers were then redistributed so that each audience member had someone else’s comment. Shortly after, everyone in attendance was split into smaller groups and the discussion began.
Discussions began with each group member sitting around the circle and reading the comment from the slip of paper given to them.
“They say, ‘It’s innocent until proven guilty.’ Black people are guilty until proven innocent,” read one anonymous comment.
After comments were read and introductions were made, group moderators asked questions to provoke discussion.
In attendance were various school board candidates and parents who discussed issue of race in Duluth’s public schools.
“I’m afraid that racism is going to go on because people are in denial about it,” said Allegra Henderson, an integration specialist with Independent School District 709’s Lincoln Park Middle School and Denfeld High School. Henderson, who is African-American, felt that her son was oblivious to the racism that he encountered at school. She was worried that it had become second nature to him.
When moderator Doug Bowen-Bailey asked his group what they would do to ease the racism issue in Duluth, looks of perplexity spread from face to face.
“We need to build community. We need to get to know our neighbors,” said school board candidate Anne Harla to her group. “What I’d suggest is to join a cause. Be part of action teams to help.”
“Education. The denial of the poison is the poison,” said Schoenborn.
The event centered on the racial climate of the area, but the topic of the Trayvon Martin shooting and trial was still evident from group to group.
“I want people to feel free to walk down the street at night and not be worried that they might have a gun pulled on them,” said Duluth Hillside citizen patroller Archie Davis.
Davis says that the actions Zimmerman took against Trayvon Martin were unwarranted.
“You keep an eye out and stay in your car,” he said. “We [citizen patrollers] are the eyes and ears of the community and he took advantage
The event was the brainchild of Classie Dudley, a Duluth Central High School graduate, Hamline University social justice student and member of Duluth NAACP.
“We have some really powerful people here today and that’s what I love to see,” she said, “people who actually have the power to change things with people who want to see the change.”
More than 30 community members were in attendance.
“People have the power to change things,” she said. “I hope those who came today can take what they’ve learned and heard, and use it to take the steps we need to take.”