Group holds race relations forum at El Centro College

While one group held another police brutality protest in downtown Dallas Friday night, a different group gathered at El Centro College for a community forum to discuss race relations and think of ways to improve the city.

The Dallas Festival of Ideas hosted the forum in the same place where the gunman in the police ambush was eventually killed by police.

Organizers said their form and the other group’s march were both meant to help move the same issue forward. The forum worked to address two questions: How did we get here and where do we go from here?

Little more than three weeks since the attack on Dallas police, community activists, residents and organizations for social change came together at the very spot that was the center of it all. It was called the "Actions Speak Louder" forum, organized by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.            

“This is our city. This is in our city. It's the heart of our city and the city center,” said executive director of the organization, Dr. Larry Allums. “And we believe there's no place more appropriate to do this than El Centro.”

Just a couple blocks away in downtown Dallas, protestors gathered to continue pursuing their message of change.

“Both are important,” said Allums. “We don't have all the answers. We're not the only ones doing this. We're just beginning now, but we believe we have a contribution to make. So we want to be involved.”

Speakers led small group discussions on racial issues, trying to find solutions that they plan to organize and present to Mayor Mike Rawlings for consideration.

“Because of the nature of our country, people don't want to talk about race,” said forum participant Jerry Hawkins. “People definitely don't want to talk about equality”.

“We know there are tensions and we know there are real reasons for those tensions,” said forum participant Nancy Marcus. “But there are a lot of us who are pulling for each other.”

And though they know one night of discussion isn't going to solve it all, participants say it's a start. 

“It's very important to open up the dialogue, start talking about race, start talking about racial equity and everybody needs to join the conversation,” said Hawkins. “And it shouldn't be controversial. We shouldn't have to convene a meeting to talk about it.”

Friday’s meeting was invitation-only to keep the group discussions smaller and give everyone a chance to speak. Organizers say city officials and Dallas police were invited but weren’t able to make it.

Organizers say Friday night’s forum was the first of many community forums they plan to host to help push the conversation forward. Future meetings will be open to the public.