THERE ARE FEW THINGS AS POLARIZING these days as the conflicts over police brutality and racism in America. July has seen more police shootings of black men, more protests from the #BlackLivesMatter camp, and even a number of planned cop killings by unhinged men seeking retribution.
On social media, it’s a war zone. Flame wars, race-baiting, dog-whistling, and asinine hashtags like #AllLivesMatter fill up our feeds and distract from more meaningful conversation. It was starting to seem like there could be no good news on this front.
AJ Bohannon, the President of the Wichita branch of #BlackLivesMatter had been planning a protest this past Saturday, and he and other members of the activist group met up with the Wichita police for a long meeting to discuss the plans. What came out of the meeting instead was, in true Kansas fashion, a joint barbecue.
— Circa (@Circa) July 19, 2016
The cops and the protesters are calling it the “First Steps Community Cookout,” and it’s part of a larger effort to close the divide between the police and the people they are policing.
— Akeam Ashford (@KWCHAkeam) July 18, 2016
The event gave protesters a chance to sit down and casually talk with the police, and vice versa. Protests aren’t necessarily the best place to have a conversation, and neither are hostile conference rooms. The social gathering (and, of course, the smoked meat) provided the opportunity to make the conversation less hostile. Cops at the event wore their bodycams, meaning that they were able to record some pretty awesome moments, like the Whip and Nae Nae dance above.
The event happened just hours after the shooting of three officers in Baton Rouge, and while it had been planned before that, the shooting gave the event a little extra weight.
“We can get on the same page and say those things that are in Baton Rouge don’t trickle over into Wichita, Kansas,” Bohannon said. “I think the fact that that did happen makes this event more meaningful. I definitely think this is a start for this community, and I definitely want to keep it going.”
The Wichita event inspired a trending hashtag called #ThatsMyWichita, and the Wichita PD is encouraging other cities to have similar barbecues.
h/t: Global Citizen