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Community Conversations at New Birth Baptist Church

New Birth Baptist Church

Written by DeWayne Terry, Attorney at Rubenstein Law Our battle cry at Rubenstein Law is “We’ve Got Your Back”. Our community is under siege due to bigotry, cultural bias, police brutality, social injustice, and the disregard for the humanity of man. Robert Rubenstein, Bishop Victor T Curry and of course yours truly DeWayne K. Terry, thought we needed to have a community conversation on these issues. On October 17, 2016 at 6:30 PM at the New Birth Baptist Church several hundred of us dared to have that conversation, it was indeed a huge success and a step in the right direction. To accomplish our goal of having a community conversation, we knew we needed the community and its leaders involved. We wanted city and county officials, local clergy, elected officials, law enforcement, and of course the citizens of South Florida. Once we determined who should be at the table, we assembled our team, including:

  • Mayor Carlos Gimenez , Miami-Dade County
  • Mayor Oliver Gilbert, Miami Gardens
  • Mayor Eric Jones, West Park,
  • Chairman Jean Monestime, Miami-Dade County Commission
  • Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward County
  • Assistant Director Freddy Ramirez, Miami-Dade Police Department
  • Pastor Carl Johnson, 93rd St. Missionary Baptist Church
  • Nathaniel Wilcox, Executive Director (PULSE)
  • Tangela Sears, Founder, Parents of Murdered Kids and anti-violence advocate

Our moderator was Calvin Hughes of Channel 10 news We spent over 2 ½ hours discussing very sensitive and critical issues in the Miami-Dade and South Florida communities. Attorney Robert Rubenstein gave a greeting and offered a warm welcome from our firm and reiterated our commitment to our community. We began with a traditional prayer from Elder Jeffrey Murray of the New Birth Cathedral and opening remarks by Bishop Victor T. Curry. We kicked off The Conversationby queuing an old news clip with footage showing overt and appalling discrimination towards people of color in Dawson, Alabama. This has been happening for far too long. Our distinguished panel was tasked by Bishop Curry to address these issues guided by questions from Calvin Hughes. We discussed issues and answered questions regarding local police shootings, the perception of police officers, the role of law enforcement, how our elected officials can be more proactive, and then we opened the floor for questions from the community. The questions were poignant, focused, honest and raw. It got real in the Cathedral. By night’s end, the crowd was full of energy yet exhausted by the reality of our situation. We set a goal to develop a strategic action plan and we did. In summary, we agreed that African-American males are disproportionately involved in police shootings and gun violence in general and too many are dying. Ideas to bring change include:

  • Officers getting to know the people and communities they police
  • Law enforcement providing accountability and transparency – create a citizen’s review panel for police involved shootings and issues of police misconduct
  • Better self-policing by law enforcement and they should incentivize and reward this behavior by officers
  • Citizens and officers need to work together to police the community
  • Develop a plan to create more opportunities and better jobs because within the community as Mayor Jones said, “when people are hungry they are never happy”
  • Provide better tools, support, and assistance for those returning to the community after serving time in jail

We also acknowledged that as the African-American community we must hold each other accountable and strive to be a better brother, sister, friend to each other, it truly does take a village. After all, we are only as strong as our weakest link.