October 14, 2016

The Huddle “You Matter” Panel Discussion, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016

Young and old, married and single. White collar, blue collar and no collar.

Civilians and the police.

More than 800 men and boys poured into the FBCG Ministry Center on a recent Saturday morning for “You Matter,” a special panel discussion on black males’ tense relationship with law enforcement. With news accounts of run-ins popping up on a regular basis, the attendees were eager to hear from a panel featuring former NBA players Harvey Grant, Tony Massenburg and Etan Thomas, as well as gospel hip-hop artist Bizzle, youth advocate William “Tipper” Thomas and an FBCG youth leader, Malcolm Reid.

“This came together because of all of the events going on,” said Thomas, noting that the Terence Crutcher case in Tulsa set the wheels in motion. “No one is happy with what’s happening. A big emphasis for this event was to let young people know that the older generation is here to guide them and help them. We have to do a better job of that.”
The program was co-facilitated by Dr. Johnny Parker and Rev. Jonathan Queen, who took turns asking the panel questions, directing the audience’s breakout sessions and keeping things moving. Rev. Queen, FBCG’s Youth Pastor, led a Youth Town Hall on the same topic earlier this year. He said many youth are angry about current circumstances and feel disconnected from the adults in their lives.

“I’m grateful we had this opportunity where we have young and men together,” Rev. Queen said. “My main objective was to show young men that there are men who care and will sit down with you to have crucial conversations on how to do better and be better.”

The event began with a performance by Bizzle, followed by a powerful video that included some all-too-familiar footage of black men dying at the hands of the police. The panelists spoke about their own experiences and fears that their children could wind up in an unfortunate situation. A highlight of the morning was Thomas’ 11-year-old son, Malcolm, delivering a powerful poem that challenged men to be better examples.

Lt. Colonel Raphael, a deputy chief with the Prince George’s County Police Department, offered a different perspective. He provided the audience with a list of do’s (keep hands in plain sight) and don’ts (make fast, sudden movements) to help ensure their safety and officers’ safety. A video offered similar advice, emphasizing that the goal after any encounter is to reach home safely.

Dr. Parker is an African-American man with three sons, but “You Matter” resonated with him for another reason, too. “For me it's very personal," he said. “Ten years ago, my cousin Sean Bell was killed by officers working for the NYPD. I wanted to give brothers a chance to talk it out so they won't act out. "As men of faith, we must teach others how to honor themselves and to honor law enforcement officials.”

Please click on the below photos to enlarge. Photos courtesy of FBCG Photography Ministry.