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Cornelius News

Post-Floyd discussion has community leaders, police talking

The Town of Cornelius issued this invitation: In response to the outcry of pain across our nation following the George Floyd tragedy, we invite all in the community to join us for a virtual conversation on social and racial equity in our North Mecklenburg.

About 110 people from Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville attended via Zoom.

It was Mayor Woody Washam’s idea: A conversation among local political, non-profit and church leaders as well as chiefs of police on how to forge a more equitable path forward.

“We can’t be complacent. We have to make a difference in our communities,” Washam said.

In addition to Washam they were: Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox; Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla; Cornelius Police Chief Kevin Black; Huntersville Chief Bence Hoyle: Davidson Chief Penny Dunn; Rev. Ellison Bowman, pastor of Torrence Chapel AME Zion Church; Rev. Jonathan Marlowe, co-senior pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church; Ruby Houston, North Mecklenburg Economic Mobility Collaborative; Georgia Kruegger, former executive director of Ada Jenkins Center; and Maritza Stutts, also with the Ada Jenkins Center.

Antiquity resident Dan Houston facilitated the discussion.

Editor Dave Yochum condensed and paraphrased their comments.


Moderator Dan Houston opened the Zoom discussion at 6 p.m. by saying divisiveness and a lack of awareness are tearing apart America. But “differences make a good good stew,” he said. And then he asked how panelists were feeling that day.

Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox:  Even with the pandemic and high unemployment, the one thing I have seen as a 62-year-old white man is a shift in peoples’ mindsets since the George Floyd killing…more than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla: We all come from different perspectives, and COVID has exacerbated the disconnect, but the greatest thing is we were born in the US. It frustrates me that in our society there are people who don’t feel that same way. What’s lacking over the past few years is respect for family, authority and respect for each other.

Davidson Police Chief Penny Dunn: As a police officer, there is this extreme sadness over the loss of a life, there is the anger about the disgrace brought on the badge.

Cornelius Police Chief Kevin Black: We know it’s not necessarily happening in our community but it is still reflective on us and can be stressful for our people…we try to do the right thing.

Huntersville Police Chief Bence Hoyle: As a white man it’s difficult to have credibility. One of the things police are feeling is frustration, because they are being labeled, but at the same time there were plenty of warning flags. My understanding is the officer involved [in the George Floyd killing] had 17 complaints. Fixing perceptions will be slow and there has to be a paradigm shift.

Mayor Woody Washam: We have to be on a quest in our community to improve. We have blight in our community. We have to look at what makes us tick. I’ve been on a journey…I’m a white male as well but I want to understand.

Mayor Rusty Knox: Davidson is in the process of a search for a diversity officer. It’s work that we can’t stop now.

Mayor Washam: What does defunding the police mean?

Chief Hoyle: We have to separate the anarchists from the peaceful legitimate protesters. Minneapolis needs to fight back against the unions that protect errant police officers.  The worst thing that can happen is the legitimate protestors lose traction. I don’t fear defunding the police. People understand the need for police.

Chief Dunn: It means removing funding from the police departments to fund other services. I can understand that train of thought because so much has been thrust upon of police officers, primarily mental health. Some of my frustration is that we are doing it right in North Mecklenburg. What is frustrating is why can’t they do it right, pointing to Minneapolis.

Dan Houston: What do we need to do to ensure that the George Floyd incident doesn’t happen here?

Mayor Aneralla: I think we need to do exactly what we are doing…continually engage the community in a positive way…build Habitat houses together, neighborhood cleanups…defunding the police is just a tagline.

Rev. Jonathan Marlowe: When the George Floyd death occurred, from my perspective in a white church, it was a wake-up call to examine the assumptions we’ve been living with for many years. Martin Luther King said in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is that the church should be like a headlight pointing the way forward.

[At 6:42 pm Ruby Houston was the first African American to speak]

Ruby Houston: As I reflect on the George Floyd tragedy, we are awake now. Some of us have been living this a very long time. For those us who have been awake, it is time to tear down the barriers…this is an opportunity to get to know others who may or may not look like us.

Rev. Ellison Bowman: If we are going to obtain equity in community, we must embrace diversity…our differences make us stronger. As a faith leader to obtain equity in community, it is by inter-faith events.

Dan Houston: Are we at a turning point?

Georgia Kreuger: I am concerned we think we are at a turning point and nothing happens…we have to recognize we have to have relationships with people…

Maritza Stutts: People didn’t realize there was so much disproportion around equity. Listen and come together, but there has to be a call to action.

Georgia Krueger: The pandemic has brought out inequities created by lack of wealth. Look at the children who don’t have computers or internet…they can’t do school.

Rev. Bowman: We are at a crisis-created turning point.

Dan Houston: How does history play a part?

Ruby Houston: It is a day-to-day journey and a day-to-day struggle. Back in 1965, when you went into a place of business and you were followed because of the color of your skin… Now it goes from where you live [because of gentrification] calls and cards each and every day to sell your home, to child care, but not everyone can afford it.