Talk is great, but change is better: Town hall attendees react
Some attendees believe actions speak louder than words
Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. The Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers: A summer of horrific gun violence that continues daily from Orlando, Florida, to Milwaukee is prompting athletes and activists across the country to ask themselves what can be done. This week, The Undefeated looks at some of the issues involved and holds a town hall discussion in Chicago, the site of some of the nation’s worst gun violence.
As An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility and Violence town hall concluded, many attendees sat in the gymnasium of the South Side YMCA of Metro Chicago and continued conversations among themselves. They reflected on the four panel discussions they had just heard — during which panelists discussed personal experiences with police, guns and violence, responsibility and a call to action for athletes — and wondered how they can be the change they’ve requested from athletes and public figures. Many also questioned how impactful these conversations alone would be, leaning on the old adage: Actions speak louder than words ever will.
The sentiment of seeing so many panelists, from athletes to community leaders, who were open and willing to take on the responsibility of such a large burden, moved the audience. But some continued to wonder, and worry, that the care and concern around gun violence and social issues that have plagued Chicago and communities all over the nation would be forgotten once the cameras stopped rolling.
“This was the first time I had an opportunity to sit through a town hall like this,” said Tamika Nurse, a native New Yorker who has been living in Chicago for 10 years. “Town halls are great and the conversation needs to continue, but what are we doing after this? After the production is gone, after the lights are off, after all the celebrities go home, what are we doing to continue the work and the conversation? I’m hopeful that ESPN will take some responsibility, even maybe a part two to follow the narrative.”
There were many other attendees who shared Nurse’s thoughts. Andrea Pettaway, a Brooklyn, New York, native who has lived in Chicago for many years, believes that follow-ups are essential to creating change, and that conversations should include action to make them more valuable.
“I love that everyone’s coming together and we’re talking about this,” Pettaway said. “I think a plan needs to be created, implemented and there needs to be follow-up, there needs to be accountability because I feel on one hand, it’s great saying all of this. It’s great coming together, but I want to see some action.”
Basketball Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, a native of Chicago, said he’s never left his hometown behind and has always been involved and working in local neighborhoods and communities. Thomas believes real change will come with healthy narratives and discussions surrounding the issues of violence that have been at the forefront of national news in recent weeks.
“I think the more light that we continue to shed on these problems, the more people we can bring to have conversations about these issues,” Thomas said. “When these issues fester in the dark and no one really speaks about them, that’s when they really get a mountain out of a molehill. I think right now, while all the attention is being garnered around these issues and people are talking about them, the more ideas you get and the better we can all be.”
Young men and women from Chicago’s Citywide Youth Council, one of several youth groups in attendance, listened intently as the athletes, public figures and community leaders shared their thoughts and solutions they felt would best alleviate current circumstances. Rha’Me Woods, a 17-year-old senior at Simeon Career Academy, said she was shocked that the town hall covered many of the issues the youths in Chicago face daily.
“It was like multiple issues that they said was the stuff we face every single day — the shootings, the police brutality, the resources that us blacks lack,” Woods said. “The only way I can say that we can do together is actually just love each other and understand that your resources are our resources. It’s not your resources, and I’m taking that resource from you. If we don’t come together and make this picture a correct picture, it’s gonna look ugly by itself. We not in this world by ourselves. We’re not a single person. We’re not a single soul. We are altogether one soul. A strong, healthy soul.”
Robert Holloway, 18, of St. Augustine College, countered Woods’ thoughts, believing that conversation seemed to blame the communities for issues at hand when the real problem is the lack of resources and youth guidance.
“I was really in disbelief because the stuff they were saying, they was basically blaming it on the communities,” Holloway said. “But when you go in these communities without any resources, any programs, what are you going to get? Nothing. They’re basically giving what they’re given: nothing. You need to help the youth. Talking to these athletes about what they can do, that’ll help a little bit. But this a city issue, too. So we really can’t put it all on athletes when we got a city not doing anything either.”
Whether the responsibility rests with public figures, the city or the community, athletes like Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo and Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker are ready to step into larger roles and answer the community’s pleas the best way they can. Parker, a Chicago native, believes he is still responsible for bettering communities in his hometown.
“I’m a recent resident of this neighborhood,” Parker said. “Because I have the experience that I have right now and because I made it out, why not be a spokesperson and be a voice for the people who can’t? That’s part of my responsibility that I take. Hopefully the [town hall] audience, not the ones present, but the ones around the world and the nation, know that we want change. We want to make a better life for our kids and future generations.”
“There are changes that are about to happen,” Rondo later added. “I want to inspire others, and the first initial step as far as movement is momentum. So I think town halls like this create momentum and hopefully make a movement happen.”