Tuesday night, seven people who otherwise wouldn’t be in the same room sat across from each other and had a vulnerable conversation during the inaugural CurioCity panel, live streamed on Facebook.
Hosted by Community Journals and moderated by Jonathan Parker, Fellowship Greenville’s director of community involvement, discussions included body cameras, white privilege, police diversity, gentrification and public protests.
“On July 4, my wife and I welcomed our third son into our world. There was tremendous joy and happiness as we welcomed this new family member into our family,” Parker said in the live-streamed video introduction. “The week that brought such joy into my family was the week that brought such loss and pain to families and communities around our country.”
Last week, two African-American men were killed by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. The following weekend, five Dallas police officers were killed at the tail end of an otherwise peaceful protest march in response to those killings.
In Greenville, both Friday and Saturday nights, citizens rallied downtown for planned peaceful protests. Friday night was widely without incident, while Saturday resulted in five arrests and a tasing.
Enter CurioCity. The goal of the brand, associated with GVLtoday, is to make Greenville “the most curious city around.”
The goal of CurioCity events is to provide space, to create an environment for meaningful and vulnerable conversation around complicated topics in the Greenville community and around the world.
The panelist included Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller, community organizer Jalen Elrod, Momentum Bike Clubs Director David Taylor, St. Matthew Baptist Church Pastor Zachary Brewster, and Greenville City Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle.
Questions for the panelists were submitted via social media prior to the event, which largely dictated the scope of the conversation.
Online, live stream viewers commented, asked questions and discussed the topics from the panel with each other. “Grateful for the panelists and their willingness to discuss and the action steps they’re taking to build up GVL together,” commenter Kaitlyn Eastin said.
As of Wednesday morning, the panel has been viewed more than 2,000 times with 375 comments. CurioCity and GVLtoday plan to facilitate more conversations in the near future to fill the need of localized venerable and intimate conversations in Greenville.
“CurioCity is not about resolution, but dialogue,” according to a statement by event organizers. “A demonstration that being together, talking together, listening together may lead us to true healing, true understanding and true change.”
Jonathan Parker, moderator
“Sadly, it generally takes a crisis, an outbreak of violence that no one can ignore, for us to gather as a community with those of differing points of view for a conversation,” Parker said. “We must engage the conversation before the crisis comes home to us.”
Ken Miller, Greenville police chief
Miller discussed the Greenville Police Department, citing that the majority of their recruiting budget is currently going to diverse recruitment. He said he has a police requirement plan drafted that he believes makes Grenville competitive for diverse officers. “Implicit bias is something that I believe is important for police to focus on,” he said. He also cited that the force is reviewing bids for body cameras, which he hopes to have implemented by this fall.
Jalen Elrod, community organizer
On the perception that Greenville is geographically segregated, Elrod said, “If we want to create racially inclusive communities, we do have to address that problem.”
Elrod also addressed the issue of white privilege: “White privilege is a byproduct of white supremacy.”
“White privilege is something you shouldn’t feel guilty about, because it’s something you can’t help,” he said, “but as with many issues it’s important to understand the historical context behind that, and for over 200 years, white supremacy ruled.”
In the Jim Crow era of segregation, he said, “We all know that equality never came to suffice. More often than not, those who tried to exercise their rights as an American were met with a police baton.”
“A lot of people like to assume that the issues between the African-American community and law enforcement community started in August 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., and that simply isn’t true,” he said. “For anyone to suggest that 200 years of racial tyranny does not have implications that reverberate to the present is naïve.”
David Taylor, director of Momentum Bike Clubs
Taylor addressed the geographic segregation issue from the perspective of the mentoring program he runs for at-risk youth. "We need an intentional proximity of people with color and people who are different, so we can build that bridge,” he said.
“I think for white folks, they don’t understand how the system works for them in their favor,” he added.
Zachary Brewster, pastor of St. Matthew Baptist Church
“What we’re really fighting is each other,” Brewster said. “Until we come into more rooms like this, we’re not working together.”
He challenged the panelists to bring the collaboration of the panel back into their own daily lives. “If you say something different in that room, something you wouldn’t say if you weren’t on camera, then you aren’t having accountability to have that conversation.”
Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle
“You have to give a lot of trust and authority to a chief and their command staff,” Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle said on internal police investigations. She said she trusts the police and their systems in internal policing.
“I think we would rather have neighborhoods that are more diverse and not just West Greenville and Nicholtown.” Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle said on gentrification outside of Greenville and recreating that in Greenville.