A Discussion on Greensboro’s Racism, Politics and Teen CurfewJul 25th, 2013 | By Matt Amick | Category: Feature
In an effort to provide a form of journalism free of bias, I am presenting a “ready-made” record of the events or rather the words spoken at the Teen/Parent Meeting held at the Greensboro Public Library on July 24th, 2013. They are not exact as ears often miss parts of the entire story. Not everyone was recorded and transcribed, due to inadequate audio equipment and my own limitations. The following hereby appear in no particular order except that in which they were transcribed from my recorder. Let the words of the community speak for themselves.
“The reason for convening this meeting was to give parents and their teens an opportunity to have a voice in what decision we have made about the curfew and other issues that might be related to how we need to serve our teens. It’s to share information it’s to gather suggestions from the teens and their parents. It is to understand communication gaps.”
Council Member T. Dianne Bellamy-Small
“My name is Iris Carter and I’m a Dudley high school alum; a former Greensboro Youth Council member and I have two children in town, granted they’re adults now. But, I wanted to come because when I heard all the discussion going on, all I could think about was 50 years ago Joanne Bennett approached City Council because our city leaders were worried about youth running amuck. Joanne recognized we needed programs for youth in town. As a result, the GYC was established and designed to teach leadership skills to teens. And what I’ve seen happen, since I graduated in ’78, is GYC has diminished. It doesn’t have the programs that it used to have. It’s faced budget cuts; its spread too far too thin and back in my day if we had something like this happen, GYC would have been front and center. And we need to bring it back up so we can coordinate funding for services through GYC. The programs were immense and I think that would be a huge solution to some of these issues. And getting the teens input in coordinating some of these services. I just wanted to throw that out because I think you’ve done a huge disservice in not addressing GYC more.”
“I graduated from DudleyHigh School, the class of 1974. I’ve been trying to bring these problems to the attention to Greensboro for years. I suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome for things that happened when I was a teenager here. Gang violence in 2007, I think it was I ran as a write-in candidate for mayor against Yvonne Johnson and Milton Kern. Because the two of them staged forums in which they talked about there was no gang violence in Greensboro. Until one reporter of the News & Record did a very in-depth story in which he actually went into the gangs. A young man named Joe Killian bravely went into the gangs and talked to them and found out that yes we do have a problem. I have 200 members of the Blood Gang across the street from my house at the time. So, for the last two years I’ve been writing this blog called East Greensboro Performing Arts Center, where I’ve been asking these questions. And I’ve been warning the council and warning Greensboro that all these things were going on. And what gets done? Not anything. So my question tonight is, “Why did it take a ‘riot’ in downtown Greensboro to get to this point?” Why? Why? Is it just because there’s an election coming in November? Is that the only reason we’re here? Or are we going to finally do something about it this time? Frankly, I am fed up.”
“I’m a graduate of Dudley High School 2013. I was downtown at a food cooking outreach type event and I had my skateboard. I’ve been skateboarding since I was young, my brother got me into it and I just decided to take a ride down Lee Street. Not bothering anybody, not hitting anybody, avoiding traffic and whatnot. I approached a stoplight and I got off at the stoplight and there were three policemen on bikes apparently chasing me. And I stopped and they said,
“Well you can’t ride that down here.”
I said, “I can’t?”
He said, “No.”
And I was like, “so I have to walk?”
And they were like, “Yeah and if you get back on it after we talk to you, then we’re going to give you a ticket.”
So, I walked, took a little cut in-between two buildings where I was profiled for the next four blocks back to where I came from.
(One lone woman claps) Thanks mom!”
Ashby’s audio was mostly unclear the rest of the way.
One father of two young children took the mic and pointed out that Council Member Bellamy-Small had called the meeting and deserved props for that. Also, he pointed out that she was the lone member of the council to vote against the curfew. The gentleman then went on to mention that there were not many teens at the meeting and that it was probably a 10 to 1 ratio of service members to teens.
“I’m surprised that there are no school board members.” *clamoring in background. “Oh, there is. Thank You. I appreciate the school board members being here. I hadn’t seen it, thank you for being here. Because these are our students. These are our students that are in our schools. Our teachers should be involved in some of these decisions. Our school board should be involved in some of these discussions and decisions that are concerning our students. There are things to do here in Greensboro, for the students that can get there. Transportation is an issue for someone who doesn’t drive. If students could get on a bus and it not cost them because many of them can’t get jobs until they’re sixteen. Transportation is an issue, like the gentleman said he was riding his skateboard. I know we have lots of teens that come to our house to hang out with my kids and when we go downtown it’s not even 11 o’clock. And the police are like, “11 o’clock you gotta go.” They know that. It’s all over the news. They know this by now. They knew this the day after it happened. But, they continually were stopped four or five times between 10 and 11. When 11 o’clock they got in the car and left and they were gone by 11. But they were continually told,”11 o’clock you gotta be outta here. 11 o’clock you gotta be outta here.” Really? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. We have to respect our students. We have to respect that they know what they’re doing. That most of them know what they’re doing. It’s just a handful of kids that this happened to. Come on, we don’t have to spoil the whole city for a handful of children-that are under 18. Thank You.”
“And I just wanted to speak on behalf of the curfew. Personally, I think it’s unnecessary because most of the restaurants downtown and making money because of teenagers. Like Jimmy Johns, the pizza place downtown, even the store people going in there buying stuff hanging out downtown. There’s only so much to do in downtown because it’s not an actual city like New York or anything like that. It’s only a little downtown and what we have is mainly downtown, the mall and the coliseum when there’s things going on and events going on there. You’re taking basically what little we have and most of us live in Hampton Homes, Cumberland Courts, Claremont and we don’t want to be over there all day because it’s pretty much trouble over there as well. So, you’re taking what little that we have left of fun. And fun is what you think of and you can’t stereotype every teenager because of one group of people that wants to go downtown and do a riot because if that’s the case you could stereotype the people in California for their riots. So, I can’t speak for everybody but I have two sisters, 14 and 17, I look after them and they weren’t a part of this so I don’t think they should be punished for this as well.”
Brandon Evans, Grimsley High School Graduate 2013
“I’m not a teenager but I feel for all these guys and I agree with what he was just saying, how you can’t judge a whole mass group of people for that one instance. I wrote a bunch of nasty stuff; I don’t really want to read it all because I hope that none of it’s true. I hope that our city, Greensboro being in the news again for a racist issue- I hope that that is not the case. I really wanna give the benefit of the doubt for that, but it really (garbled). And I’m trying to not believe that and another thing I don’t believe is that Downtown Greensboro wants to be thriving. They want people down there, they want all these things. We’ve been talking about it for like fifteen years or something. And now people are down there, we don’t know what to do. I don’t believe that we actually do want people down there because we keep turning them away and telling them to be more quiet.”
“I couldn’t have said it better, than what that young man said. There were two words commissioner that he said. He said, “Stereo Typed.” He spoke very eloquently. He said how he lives here, and now what do we allow to happen? Single parents. So if he had to speak like that as a young man, a black man, he can’t so he had the dream, he’s educated, he wants something. We don’t teach in no downtown, y’all make the decision, thank you Bellamy for saying names. That was one person. Politics wanna be about the politicians, so stop that. It’s not about you being elected. Every time I look on TV with the couch they talk the dollars they never talk about the concerns between you and me. Every time. I’m the director for? and I came here 20 years ago (garbled).”
“And I really don’t hang out downtown. But, on behalf of what I believe I think the curfew is okay because I guess they’re only trying to protect us in a way from the violence and all the stuff that goes in Greensboro.”
Sydney, rising senior from Northwest High School
“First I’d like to commend Ms. Bellamy Small for having us meet in this forum in a very proactive manner. Also, I like to see the way our library is being used as a public space for a public conversation. I’m a public school teacher, I teach Spanish currently K-5 at Guilford Elementary. I’m also a parent too, not teenagers but 8 and 10 years old. I know that we are here tonight to talk about things to do for our youth and way to move forward. But, I think before we go there that the curfew and the issue surrounding the issue the supposed riot really needs to be brought into question. I think the burden of proof lies with the city. It is my understanding, it is not my understanding that any clear proof has been put forth that there was anything that could be defined as a riot as such. There was a disturbance. There is videotape of my understanding of teenagers running away after a shot was fired. I think the burden of proof lies with this city that that was not a police shot in the air to clear people. Number one. I think the burden of proof lies with the city to prove what happened downtown to our citizens. And I think that as citizens we do not need to make assumptions about what happened. Specifically because of the race of the individuals involved. And I think we need to look hard and question? About that. Because in my heart of hearts I would like to believe it would be different but had those been white dudes downtown, I do not think it would be called a riot and I do not think there would be a curfew. It would not have been that reaction. Inaudible through applause. That being said, I’m working at elementary school but I’ve worked with teenagers over the years. Our teenagers do have real issues when it comes to conflict resolution. And unfortunately in the black community specifically calling the police is not a positive a not an option that comes to a positive outcome. Especially when you have conflict with other teenagers. You have kids out there who are scared and often have no other recourse than to find there’s not somebody else to defend them. So, at that point who’s going to do it for you? Your school’s not doing it for you. Home’s not doing it for you. And the police’s not doing it for you. This is when you see gangs come into play. They’re willing to do things for our youth, that we’re not willing and able to do for our youth. Provide culture, language, economics. These are the things that we need to be providing. So, I’m pleased to see we’re moving forward in a proactive and democratic manner but I think these are tough questions that we need to ask. Thank You.”
“I was downtown at the night in question, that was just addressed. I tend to agree that a riot was really strong of a term to use. I watched the news report and read several articles downtown that kind of demonized our kids that were downtown. I see very little report of property damage and things like that, so a riot would be a really strong term to use for what happened. It was an incident. It was unfortunate and there were definitely people who were injured and I believe there was someone who was fired upon and hit with a weapon, which is very unfortunate, but a riot- that just doesn’t fit the bill as far as that’s concerned.”
Irvin Allen, Shallow Baptist Church and Youth Group Leader
“I just wanted to say that I was also there. I was just leaving a dance rehearsal and I was kind of farther away I just kind of heard things and I saw people you know once I was leaving out. But, I agree I coulda said that I thought a riot was a little bit of a severe term to use. Personally, I was just wondering why so many parents didn’t know where there child was. They dropped them off. I mean these are younger kids, they didn’t drive down there.”
“I was not down here the night of the so-called riots, but I was here the week before and the only reason why kids come down to fight is because the officers did not do anything in regards to like you know letting them know not to fight. When I was down here the week before I was enclosed in an altercation which caused three or four other kids to get involved in it. And when I had stood up initially, like after I got underneath the people that were like fighting. When I stood up the officers were across the street so my whole reason coming up here is to basically like let y’all know that the only reason kids come down here to fight is cause they feel like officers are not going to do anything. So you should have more security around and they see that security is out, they’re not going to fight. So if y’all just do what you have to do instead of doing it like y’all did last time. Macing everybody. I don’t think that was necessary.”
Denarius, age 15
“I think we are sending a really weird message to youth right now by coming together in the community and trying to work out programs and speak of ideas, but we’re also shutting them out. It’s counter-intuitive. I think we need to re-examine the curfew as part of this process. A word about curfews and effectiveness: Mike Males, who is a researcher for Atlanta center on juvenile and criminal justice, on curfews, quote, “aren’t effective in either reducing crime or preventing harm to young people.” And in a study he also conducted in 1998, he concluded that solutions are more complex and multifaceted.”
Rae Alton, Avant Greensboro editor
“Could you tell me what the exact parameters, geographical parameters are of the curfew area and how can-compound, compound question- and how can you ensure that youngsters that are 18 and above, but look 18 or less are simply not profiled? Similar to the young Dudley student who said that he’d be turning 18, he looked about 15. So how can you ensure that they want be profiled and what in fact are the geographical boundaries? And also what happens to somebody who is just outside of the boundary?”
“For the most part it involves the center city business district or the downtown business district and it is specifically outlined in the ordinance. And when we talk about how we engage the youth around the curfew, and this is something we have been doing for ever since the ordinance has been put into effect. We’re going to go out and we’re going to proactively engage the youth in the downtown area. We’re going to talk to them about the curfew, the restrictions around the ordinance and even when it gets closer to the time that the ordinance takes effect we’re still going to engage the youth and try to make sure they have arrangements to get out of the downtown area and continue to work with them to find ways so they’re not caught in that zone that is outlined in the ordinance. So, and the bottom line, I’ve said this ever since the ordinance has been put into effect, I continue to say this to reporters even as late as yesterday, “We’re looking for voluntary compliance, we’re looking to work with the youth to find a way to get them home, get them out of the area. We don’t wanna charge, you know kids, with a curfew violation. We try every option to get them where they need to be, get them with their parents before we have to take enforcement action. So, that’s the last possible step and that’s what we’ll continue to do and so far ever since that first weekend we’ve not had any issues we’ve had to actually enforce the ordinance with a citation or an arrest. It’s all been through verbal warnings and even if we do issue a verbal warning-we’re collecting information on the individuals we are warning so we’ve got the data that we can compare those individuals who are getting verbal warnings versus those that are getting citations or just regular arrests. Because we want to understand that as well. So, we’re doing everything we can to be proactive in that effort.”
Charles Cherry was then cut off and asked to direct his questions to the officers following the meeting.