Black Lives Matter: A discussion of the movement in Prince George’s County
BY BRIANNA RHODES— Prince George’s County is home to the the wealthiest African-American majority community in the nation, according to WAMU 88.5’s Kojo Nnamdi. “It’s also got struggling schools, poverty, and long-running tensions between police and minority residents,” he said.
Police relations, education, youth concerns, and economic issues were a few topics discussed at an open forum event held at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville on Nov. 17. The event, hosted by Nnamdi, provided an opportunity for community members to voice their opinions about the Black Lives Matter Movement in Prince George’s County.
Erica Totten, with Black Lives Matter DMV, said the local chapter began in Jan. 2015 when organizers felt the movement focused too heavily on black men. “So when we say ‘black lives matter,’ we mean all black lives,” she said.
“The national conversation on race certainly has an affect here in our county, if for no other reason because our county is a predominantly black county,” said Jonathan Hutto from the Prince George’s People’s Coalition. “And although we have the slogan of the label of being the richest in terms of black residents per capita throughout the United States, pockets of poverty, pockets of schools that are ill-funded, schools that are actually being closed in our county, police brutality, and police harassment — all the issues that you read about and hear about all take place in Prince George’s County,” he said.
“In the state of Maryland and Prince George’s County, there are so many different ways we can improve community policing in Prince George’s County,” said Maryland State Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-22).
“The first interaction for a trained police officer and the citizens of Prince George’s County is when they are now licensed police officers [after eight months of training],” Washington said. “What I plan to introduce next year is to ensure that that doesn’t happen anymore in the state of Maryland, that there is community service within training for all police agents in Maryland and Prince George’s County.”
“We think some of the ways to [resolve issues] are through jobs, through connections to community, and through other increased opportunities by building the social fabric and the safety net of fabric for children and youth in communities to be able to respond to and depend on,” said Tonia Wellons from the Prince George’s Social Innovations Fund.
Residents also shared their views on the definition of black power and the successes of the Black Lives Matter Movement since it began.
“Young people need to take action,” said Lois Velle from Bowie about young people being aware of the movement.
“I was a student activist in the 60s. Now it’s their turn to carry the torch. Young people have gotten too comfortable and don’t realize what’s going on,” said Velle.