United we stand
By Apryl Motley
Images of police officers shooting and being shot at have been all too frequent in recent months, leaving many communities feeling frustrated, angry and sad, and relationships with local police departments strained. In some communities no one’s talking – especially to youth – about these feelings. Efforts are under way, so this doesn’t happen in Takoma Park.
“It’s okay to feel frustration and anger; it’s what we do with those emotions that matters,” said Mayor Kate Stewart as she reflected on the violence and injustice to which communities across the country have born witness.
“These are not easy conversations to have, but they are necessary,” she continued. “They are hard for everyone especially in a community like Takoma Park where people care so deeply about being inclusive and building community.”
Illustrative of just how powerful one conversation can be, the recently announced Unity in the Community Initiative grew out of one Stewart had with Meagan Murphy, co-owner of Capital City Cheesecake, and Captain Tyrone Collington, an 18-year veteran with the Takoma Park Police Department. Murphy brought the idea to the table of holding an event to bring together police officers and residents in the community, particularly young people in middle and high school.
“As a mom, resident and business owner, it’s overwhelming to think about tackling this issue nationwide, but if I could start locally by knowing my own police department and talking to my neighbors, maybe other communities will take ownership as well and follow Takoma Park’s example,” Murphy said. “My overall vision is for the initiative to have a ripple effect.”
Building on the momentum from August’s very successful National Night Out, the initiative kick-off event is a Neighborhood Block Party at Capital City Cheesecake on Sept. 25 from 4–7 p.m. Everyone in the community is encouraged to attend, volunteer, or lend their services.
“Takoma Park is a place where the citizens and the police department normally have a great relationship, but in light of recent incidents with police in the community, we wanted to get ahead of the curve and bring our community together,” Collington said. “What we hope to get out of this initial event is a large gathering of the community, but building relationships is a continuous process all over the City. We want to unify the community and have the police and residents on the same page.”
Assistant City Manager Jason Damweber echoed these sentiments. “It is always wonderful when residents and local business owners help to develop and enact solutions to issues and challenges in their community,” he said. For Stewart it’s especially important that “young people in Takoma Park know we’re working on building positive relationships between residents and police.”
But make no mistake, this plan of action goes beyond one event. “We have to be proactive in creating a relationship with the police department to make sure we all feel protected and secure,” Murphy stressed. “This Initiative is ongoing, which is critical for its success. We are committing to rolling out events throughout the year to constantly build this relationship.”
For more information about how you can participate, contact Meaghan Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the September 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.