ROANOKE, Va. – The conversation to solutions: That’s what a local pastor called Tuesday night’s discussion between faith leaders, Roanoke’s mayor and police chief, and a local protest organizer.
All the parties sat down for a candid conversation, opening up about past hurt and future healing.
“We're not looking at ranting tonight. We've done enough of that,” said Pastor Cecil Scott, who organized the conversation.
It took Pastor Scott less than 48 hours to get the Roanoke leaders to agree to sit on a stage and talk.
Tuesday evening, Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman, protest organizer Jordan Bell, Elevation Church Pastor David Shearer, and community mentor Jemarh Fuell, sat side-by-side with Pastor Scott to discuss looking back and moving forward.
“Many times, leaders of influence get accused, because people don't see them more vocal, so it was laid upon my heart to bring them to one collaborative room,” said Scott.
Watch the full conversation:
They all vocalized their perspectives of the George Floyd video with everyone agreeing it was murder.
Perhaps the most poignant opinion coming from the city's top cop.
“My thought process about how I feel about what's happening in Minnesota is simple, it's wrong. It's murder. That's how I feel about it, both from a professional and a personal opinion,” said Chief Roman.
Establishing a level playing field, each one sounded off on their experiences.
“I've had bad interactions with police officers, just driving my car sometime, so I think the same things that are happening around the country, around the state when it comes to how black males are viewed is also going on right here, right in Roanoke,” said Bell.
After hearing Bell’s statement, the chief makes a promise.
“I apologize that you have had that experience and I make a commitment to you that as long as I’m chief I will do everything I possibly can to work with you and everyone up here [on stage] to ensure that the culture of the police department does not precipitate that feeling you had when you got stopped,” said Roman.
Wednesday, some of those who were part of that conversation said healing can begin.
“I think some barriers were broken,” said Lea.
“It wasn't under his tenure that some of these things that even Mr. Bell has experienced, but it took someone like Chief Roman to say I represent that now and I believe over generations that's what we've seen. That it might not have been perhaps that person in that roll or that ethnicity that did it personally, but somebody has to stand up and take responsibility,” said Scott.
One conversation ended and now many more will begin.