Cambridge community gathers to address race relations
With the United States reeling from recent tragedies involving black men dying at the hands of police, and retaliation against law enforcement, community leaders in Cambridge are using the crisis as an opportunity to discuss the relationship between police and community.
Nearly a half of a century ago – in 1967, Cambridge, Md. came into the crosshairs of National politics on one summer night when racial tension boiled over into riots. Fast-forward to today, and racial tensions are in the headlines yet again. Kisha Petticolas is a co-founder of the Eastern Shore Network For Change (ESNC), and an assistant public defender in Dorchester Co. Petticolas says “this is a community that still feels divided in a lot of ways.”
However this time, the citizens of Cambridge are looking to change the conversation. Petticolas’ fellow co-founder Dion Banks says “we’re going to teach our citizens to take ownership of the city and make sure they’re becoming change advocates and working with local government working with the police to make sure that we’re progressing forward.”
Which is a tall order, given the two sides feel their lives are potentially at risk with every interaction. Cambridge Police Chief Daniel Dvorak says “when you’re in law enforcement and you think you could be a target just because you’re wearing the uniform, it’s upsetting.”
The tough times though, now setting a platform for change. Dvorak says the police force’s power “comes from the people”, and now those people have the opportunity to be face to face with local leaders. Petticolas says the in-person interaction is important in the social media age, saying “when you’re here face to face and you hear a real live person talk about the hurt that they felt, or a real life person honestly telling you that they don’t understand your perspective it creates a different level of understanding.”
That understanding doesn’t always mean agreement, but it does allow everybody’s voice to be heard. Banks says “we’re looking to bring everybody together to collaborate to make sure that we know the community that we want to address, we’re focusing on the right issues, we’re creating a sustainable Cambridge, we’re addressing education, we’re addressing economics and social issues so we can all prosper in the future.”
Because forging success, often is built on past mistakes. Chief Dvorak summed up the mentality of the City in the meetings saying “we have a history, but that’s not what defines us.”