Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kids And Kops Can Talk In Frederick Maryland!

New Horizons and The Frederick City Police Demonstrate Kids And Kops Can Talk

Anxiety and fear ran high with no space for release as a room full of people, mostly adults, awaited the van load of kids from Frederick’s Housing Authority. Gathered at Dublin Roasters Coffee House for the fifth and final in a series of Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations, this one was to be the highlight in a succession of New Horizons Support Network, Inc. sponsored programs, designed to build an enhanced community unity in Frederick, Maryland.

But this program’s agenda was fraught with concern. “Kids and Kops In Conversation” was the scheduled presentation for the day. But could these two, “kids and kops,” ordinarily polarized, often warring factions, even come close to a conversation with civility? No one there was certain it could be accomplished.

For months New Horizons had been meeting with members of the Frederick City Police,  planning this event.  Kids and Kops In Conversation was to be a challenge but with the four other Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations successfully achieving their goals, the organizing team for this event was ready for the test.

With Brandon Chapman, Youth Activities Coordinator for the Housing Authority, in charge of bringing the kids and Captain Jason Keckler responsible for recruiting the police, the planning team members still found themselves being apprehensive, facing into the wind. Herman King, one of the organizers and a football coach at Linganore High School, laid out some of the hard places that might need to be encountered.

With an incisive eye, based on decades of coaching youth in Frederick, not only in sports but, even more dramatically, on how people, especially young African American males, might safely interact with police, Herman had prepared the group with guidelines on how to openly address issues that potentially end up in violence. Herman’s “Ten Things Kids Might Want To Ask Kops” painfully summarized some of the most pressing.

Questions for the police such as: 1.What gets cops so aggravated that they get physical; 2. What can be done to end deaths of black men in the custody of law enforcement?; 3. How can I be assured that my race will not work against me when dealing with law enforcement? were on the money as topics that would need to be addressed, at some point, if a genuine success for the Kids and Kops in Conversation endeavor could succeed.

As the program began, once the honored guests, the van load of kids from the projects finally arrived, almost an hour late, the single most important item necessary to discuss was the hopes and the fears of the group, especially the latter, the fears for what lay ahead.

The program began with a moment of silence, recognizing the pain of recent violence; the murder only the week before of the Ice Cream Man in nearby Lucas Village and just days before the racist-driven murders of nine African American church goers in South Carolina in their place of worship. Obviously, pain and fear set the underlying tone for what this group was now embarking upon.

Anastasia Rosen-Jones, Executive Director of the New Horizons Support Network, Inc., officially opened the program with a near-tearful apology to the African Americans present that people that look like her, Caucasian, were murdering people who look like them. Then the conversation really got started with people coming up to the front stage to share their fears and their hopes for what lay ahead. For the adults, the single greatest fear was that the group in attendance would simply not be able to talk. For the kids they were too shy – or fearful – to even share what they feared, or hoped.

But surprise of all surprises, miracle of miracles, everyone did talk. With goodwill and courage, the attendees of the event made it through, discovering in the process that kids and kops could talk in Frederick, Maryland!

They had made a beginning. The conversations actually had been relatively smooth going, once started. A rite of passage had occurred for these “kids and kops;” they could just hang out, person-to-person at a neighborhood coffee shop. What made it turn out that way?

A pledge, carried out, perfectly, by the Frederick City Police, organized and orchestrated by Captain Jason Keckler, and the other adults present; facilitators, volunteers, parents -- and -- the voices of the youth who had the courage to speak and be heard. And they were!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Storytelling In The Midst of Tragedy

The final event of the first New Horizons' Coffee House Conversation On Race Relations Series, Kids and Kops In Conversation, scheduled for Saturday, has placed New Horizons in a unique position. A murder last Saturday afternoon in the local community within which these programs have been being held means this community is now in a profoundly challenging position.

However, already in Frederick County, Maryland, the local community has shown itself incredibly able to move beyond the polarization of "kids and kops" to reach new levels of caring, compassion, healing and hope. This is thanks to the Frederick County Police Department, the local Housing Authority and the community at large.

Listen in to the Possible Society In Motion Radio Show tonight and give yourself an uplifting opportunity as Anastasia and Jack explore the possibilities already in motion in one community, Frederick, Maryland, beyond one of America's most disturbing problems of our time; relationships between kids and kops, especially when kids are of color.

Then join Anastasia and Jack as they invite listeners to take this topic to a deeper, more profound and personal level in the Conference Call discussion immediately following the broadcast portion at: 712.432.0600, access code 640883 (also recorded).

Thursday, June 18 

6:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Could It Be That Telling (and Listening to) Stories Can Redeem The World?

The Talmud, the authoritative body of Jewish tradition, tells us that “to redeem one life is to redeem the world.”

I have come to believe the merit of this ancient wisdom. But I have to ask myself who it is that does the redeeming of who in this adage brought forth from olden times? And how exactly does "redeeming"actually occur?

These questions burgeoned forth out of my mind today as I pondered the effect New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations project has made on, at least, one woman, an officer of our local police force.

Her responses to my inquiring how our Coffee House Conversations have affected her helped me see the impact our efforts are making, especially the storytelling facet of our programs.

Even in my role as “chief cook and bottle washer” of the project, I certainly am not the one to have “redeemed” this one life.  Only a Supreme Being is equipped for that assignment!

But how about the notion that if one police officer’s humanity can be replenished by the simple act of listening to and sharing stories, we might also then be able to find ways in which we might just save a kid or two by doing the same; listening to and telling stories?

Is it safe to hope that we can take that mark of progress in one woman a step farther, stretching the effort to help bridge the separation where it is most pointed these days; the angst between “kids and kops.”  I certainly want this to be so!

From a personal interview I had with this one police officer, I found evidence that change is occurring as a direct result of New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations, especially from the storytelling facet of the program.  

I have recently “felt” that something positive was happening from our efforts. But having it verified and spelled out; the “what” and the”how,” now that is something!

So I learned that we are making a difference in our local community. This may only be a small step forward on a very long journey. But it is a step, no less.

Hear the back story I heard that represents the “storytelling” I am excited about on the podcast of this week’s –

Listen to an inspiring story about what has happened with only one police officer opening up to new ways of seeing, hearing, speaking and being.

Imagine what it could be like if hundreds more, even thousands would do the same!

Imagine how our world could change!

Imagine, too, such efforts helping to inspire and empower our youth to meet our police officers on some kind of common ground of cooperation!

Oh my! Oh my!

Let it be!

This is our hope for our forthcoming…

Thoughts to remind us to keep reaching for the best we can do and be –
  • “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And moves forward one small step at a time.
  • “An enemy is someone whose story we have not yet heard.”