Charlotte images evoke heartbreak, calls for dialogue in Nashville

Police fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters on Old Concord Road late Tuesday night, Sept. 20, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. A black police officer shot an armed black man at an apartment complex Tuesday, authorities said, prompting angry street protests late into the night. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department tweeted that demonstrators were destroying marked police vehicles and that approximately 12 officers had been injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
Police fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters on Old Concord Road late Tuesday night, Sept. 20, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. A black police officer shot an armed black man at an apartment complex Tuesday, authorities said, prompting angry street protests late into the night. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department tweeted that demonstrators were destroying marked police vehicles and that approximately 12 officers had been injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The images from Charlotte, North Carolina, are heartbreaking, but the reasons behind the violence are complex.

Watching the pictures make many think of their own neighborhoods and how they interact with police.

To get some perspective, News 2 went to two very different pastors of African-American churches.

Rev. jeff obefemi carr, who prefers the lower case for his name, is a longtime Nashville activist, actor, playwright and pastor who focuses on youth.

“It hurts my heart, it hurts to the core when I see this continually happening,” he told News 2. “And it motivates me to continue to work hard to be the change.”

The reverend speaks from his tree-laden Infinity Fellowship church in the Haynes Heights area of Nashville’s Bordeaux area where kids often come from difficult backgrounds just to walk in the woods and talk with him.

On the Nashville-Williamson County border, Pastor Bruce Maxwell pastors one of the area’s largest African-American churches.

He said he will have words from the pulpit this Sunday for congregants at Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

“Violence is not the way for this to be resolved,” he told News 2. “Communities need to sit down and have conversation, and I think that conversation begins with the church.”

Rev. Carr minced no words that black lives are not valued equally, but to change he says requires breaking down what he calls “the machine”–the systems often in place.

“From grass roots, it takes a lot of work from civic and social people and political figures who are going to be committed to actually breaking down the machine,” he added

Carr says that kind of work includes “honesty, transparency and accountability,” but while he has been to troubled places like Ferguson, Missouri, protesting, it’s now about empowerment of others to avoid issues that have been seen in Charlotte

“Teaching the legal system, teaching them how to interact with the legal system, teaching them how to interact with public office, that is where my work is now more than it is in the streets,” said the native Nashvillian.

His summation about violence like Charlotte is simple and blunt

“One, just stop killing black people, then number two start creating and rebuilding a system that values all lives as equal then we don’t have to be reminded that black lives matter,” said Carr.

The pictures from Charlotte will bring words this Sunday from Pastor Maxwell in the pulpit.

“There needs to be some sort of understanding because what is happening there is not the way,” he told News 2.

His way is that of continued open dialogue.

The pastor is one of several African-American preachers who have met regularly with city and police leaders for years.

He has told them about racial profiling.

“[It’s] still a big issue and that occurs quite often, much more than is actually believed,” added the longtime pastor.

In his measured tone, the reverend told News 2 the words he has likely recited to many young men.

“Respect if you are stopped. Do exactly what the officer says and don’t make any sudden crazy moves or anything like that,” said Maxwell.

But the pastor is also well aware about officers making stops.

“A lot of them are scared to death with all the police that have been killed within this year.

He, drawing on those parallels that could be happening in Charlotte or potentially in our own backyard,

“So you have a jumpy situation on both sides where everybody just needs to calm down, lets reason with one another and come to an understanding,” added the reverend.

 

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