The Next 400: Advisory council with real life steps to combat social and racial injustice

Updated: Oct. 9, 2020 at 11:31 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - When 19 News embarked on its hallmark social and racial justice initiative, “The Next 400,” an advisory council was formed.

The purpose of the council was to bring together community leaders and stakeholders to guide the decision making, offer advice and insight and audit the quality of reporting.

For the first time, the council was brought together to speak as one voice in a digital roundtable.

The members include:

  • Subodh Chandra, a noted civil rights attorney in Cleveland.
  • Habeebah Rasheed Grimes, CEO of PEP Cleveland.
  • Charmin Leon, former Cleveland Police Sergeant now with The Center for Policing Equity.
  • Chenoa Miller, a student and activist at Cleveland State University.
  • Dr. Charles Modlin, founder of the Minority Men’s Health Fair and Center at Cleveland Clinic.

We discussed several topics, starting with non-violent events that cause trauma, like the failure to bring significant charges in the Breonna Taylor case, or the failure to denounce white supremacy in the first presidential debate.

“They erode at our sense of self that we are valued as fellow citizens, that our lives matter. They erode at our sense of equal justice,” said Chandra.

Added Leon, “It’s not just two systems of justice for the average citizen, but two systems of justice for black officers. It’s two systems of justice based on your skin color.”

Dr. Modlin noted these traumatic events can have health repercussions. “This has been studied in medical literature for decades. These individuals have poorer health outcomes, not only psychologically but the physiology is affected—hypertension, high blood pressure which can lead to diabetes and strokes.”

Miller talked about being young and going through times like this.

“It’s stressful, that constant anxiety. How do I deal with it? What do I do to deal with that?”

Grimes added “You need reassurance from the external world that you are safe, that the community is safe. There is a need for us to reestablish that sense of safety.”

The council also talked about real life steps people can take to address and combat these issues.

“You can either give up in despair or you can say we all have to recommit ourselves to making it better. You have to look at data and individual outcomes and question authority,” said Chandra.

Miller spoke directly to parents and guardians.

“Give that guide. Give that help, because if you send that child out there blindly….I have no idea what to do and I don’t know what to think. I have this information in front of me and I don’t know how to process it.”

Grimes stressed the importance of self care.

“You start with yourself. Be regulated, holding on to radical optimism and tactical hope. You affect change in the places you can: your home, your community, place of work when that’s possible.”

Leon, a longtime veteran of the police force, looked at law enforcement.

“We keep speaking about de-escalation, and the truth is officers need to learn how to not escalate situations themselves. We need non-escalation. If less than 10 percent of officers' time is spent on violent crime, why are they so much of the city’s budget? If we’re spending so much on officer misconduct but we don’t have money for training, that’s backwards. You can’t get the right behavior from the wrong people.”

In closing, Grimes added it takes more than people fighting for themselves. There needs to be ally-ship.

“We need to bring together those who are curious and want to understand more.”

Tune in to 19 News at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. to watch the two-part roundtable discussion.

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