Community Keeps Community Safe: A Year of Listening, Learning, and Action
One year ago, the Southern Center for Human Rights set out on a mission to understand the challenges and disparities related to police violence in Atlanta. With the city’s Use of Force Dashboard as our guide, we ventured into the heart of our communities, engaged with residents, listened to their experiences, and gathered invaluable insights about the nature of state-sanctioned violence.
Our journey began by uncovering startling disparities in the use of force across different zones. The data confirmed what many in our communities had long expressed experiencing: a clear and concerning racial disparity, with 86% of all Use of Force incidents affecting Black Atlantans.
However, our team went beyond simply unearthing the problematic patterns and practices of the Atlanta Police Department. More critically, we aimed to listen to community members and co-construct a new vision of safety and well-being.
In the first phase of our project, town halls became our shared spaces, enabling complex dialogues and bridging the divides between data and personal narratives. With sessions held in each of Atlanta’s six policing zones, it is here that we encountered the human dimensions and the social costs of state violence. Yet, it was also in these same conversations that many residents uplifted new ways of envisioning community resilience.
In the second phase, our ‘Crosstown Conversations’ brought the residents from different zones together to share and understand their differing experiences with the Atlanta Police Department and their visions of safe communities. These conversations sparked a dialogue about the systemic issues driving the disparities in use of force and opened up opportunities to explore alternative responses that were reparative and community-oriented.
Now, we’re excited to step into the final phase of our project: the Stakeholder Listening Symposium. This will bring together grassroots organizations, government stakeholders, and community members in a symposium designed to listen, learn, and shape policy solutions that advance community safety and health.
During the symposium, we’ll be welcoming Samuel Sinyangwe, a renowned data scientist and co-founder of Campaign Zero, The Mapping Police Violence Project, and The Police Scorecard. Undeniably, Sinyangwe’s research and leadership have been central to our efforts, and we are eager to engage with him as we continue to imagine an Atlanta without police violence.
The symposium signals a transition towards action, where insights and recommendations gathered from our community engagements will catalyze policy changes that dismantle the root causes of state violence, reduce the criminalization of our people, and foster more equity throughout our city.
We invite you to be part of this transformative conversation on August 19th, 2023. Your voice and your vision are needed. Together, let’s imagine, co-create, and realize a future where community safety and well-being are not mere aspirations but a lived reality for all.