Turning tragedy into an opportunity for change

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Two men shaking handsTragedy struck not once, not twice, but five times in New York City. The first was on November 25, 2006, when NYPD officers fired fifty bullets at three men, killing unarmed Sean Bell on the night before his wedding.

Thousands of protesters marched the streets of New York City following Bell’s death, including Derrick Boykin, Associate Minister at Walker Memorial Baptist Church. Looking around at the crowd, he realized it was mainly homogeneous. He left the march feeling unsatisfied because he knew that for real change to happen, many different kinds of people needed to be involved.

Three weeks later, Timur Person was shot dead at point-blank range a half a block from Boykin’s church. He knew then that something needed to be done. With the pastor’s blessing, Boykin formed a partnership with New York Faith & Justice that ultimately led to implementing the Conversations for Change in the South Bronx.

Community members and police officers came together to strengthen relationships, promote greater representation of Latinos and African Americans on the South Bronx police force, and develop solutions to racial profiling and violence.

“Both the police and the community members were shocked at how effective the process at breaking down the barriers of communication, opening ears to begin to hear each other … leading to common action towards real change,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, former Executive Director of New York Faith & Justice.   

The success of the dialogues has led to other efforts to address public health, public safety, police-community relations, and food security in the area. A coalition of churches, service providers, schools, lawyers, and community members are still working to create change in the South Bronx.

Read more stories of communities addressing community-police relations.


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September 20, 2013

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Mayme Webb Bledsoe of the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership Uses Dialogue to Lift Voices in the Duke / Durham Community 

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.