A walk for peace

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On the same street where protests for public school integration took place years ago, the community came together once again to walk for a more peaceful future.

Wednesday evening, Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood University students, community members and law enforcement met at First Baptist Church on Main Street for a program called “Am I Next: Debunking Stereotypes.”

Participants marched from the church South on Main Street to the Moton Museum, where a panel discussion took place.

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The event was organized by Karima ElMadany, a Longwood University alumna, and Hakeem Croom, an assistant dean of students at Hampden-Sydney College.

According to Moton Museum University Liaison and Interim Executive Director Dr. Larissa Fergeson, 107 people attended the panel discussion.

Longwood Black Student Association President Deja Mills said members of her organization were happy to get involved when asked by Croom.

“We jumped in, all hands on deck, and just wanted to be a part of something that was monumental,” she said, adding just before the walk began, “We’re here to join forces and be together.”

“#AMINEXT embodies everybody,” ElMadany added, “it’s not about black, it’s not about white, it’s not about yellow, it’s not about red. It’s not about any of that. It’s about humanity. We all know the history of Farmville. If we want to make a change we have to start where we are.”

Taikein Cooper spoke during the discussion following the march. He said, historically, he didn’t see good examples of police.

“It was us versus them,” Cooper said. “There was no such thing as coffee with the cop. I applaud the police department. I do think we can still push forward and get even better.”

During the discussion, attendees were invited to watch three videos portraying different perspectives about the issues being discussed. Participants discussed what they would do in different situations police officers have to face. Officers in attendance provided their own perspective.

A five-person panel answered questions and considered a variety of perspectives. H-SC Police Chief Scott Williams, H-SC Assistant Professor of English Dr. Abigail Horne, Longwood Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Connie Koski, Longwood Assistant Professor of Counselor Education Dr. Quentin Alexander and H-SC Church Pastor the Rev. Keith Leach made up the panel.

ElMadany led the discussion, asking questions that required the audience and panel members to question their own beliefs.

“It was an absolutely beautiful thing to see people from different walks of life and for people to come together for a positive cause,” she said following the event.

Croom said they wanted to keep building a conversation that began during the summer with an event hosted by Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark.

Alton Coleman, a Longwood senior who participated in the event, said he joined the march because of an experience over the summer walking with Black Lives Matter in Richmond.

“We may have not have changed anyone … but we definitely started the thinking process,” ElMadany said.

Croom and ElMadany said they are already beginning to think of follow-up events.