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After Viral Police Incident, Young Black Activists In Broward Form New Group To Find 'Solutions'

Jessica Bakeman
Tifanny Burks and Chanice Lee, activists with Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, lead a community forum at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale in Oakland Park on Monday night.

A new group for young black activists in Broward County is being formed, in part as a response to the recent police beating of a 15-year-old black boy in Tamarac.

Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward is starting a youth chapter, called the black youth assembly, in June. The group announced the plans at a community forum on Monday night at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Oakland Park.

“It’s important for us to gather and strategize,” said Chanice Lee, 17, a homeschooled senior who came up with the idea for starting the chapter and also helped organize Monday night’s event. “If we’re the ones being the most affected by police violence issues, we should be the ones coming up with the solutions on how we are going to combat it and how we are going to stay safe in our own county.”

Lee said the group will be a safe space for black kids to talk to each other about issues they care about and struggles they’re facing at home or school.

“This is the best way that we can continue to build momentum after the tragedy that has occurred,” Lee said.

The community forum was the latest in a series of events in response to an incident in which two Broward Sheriff's Office deputies were caught on video punching 15-year-old JP Taravella High School student Delucca Rolle and smashing his head against the ground. The officers have been suspended and are under investigation.

The forum was an opportunity for black parents to share their fears about their children’s safety.

Coconut Creek resident Aretha Wimberly said she feels helpless that she can’t assure her grandchildren they’ll be safe in public places.

“As a grandmother of a 4-year-old African American young man, it angers, frustrates, breaks my heart when we’re driving, and a police car drives up next to our car, and he is trying to duck out of his carseat to get on the floor so that he is not seen by the police," she said. "That is a reality for our young men.”

Other parents in the room nodded in agreement, adding that their young children had also hid from police.

Linda Joseph, who lives in Little Haiti, said she sees the situation from both sides. She worries about her son. “I have fear all the time for him,” she said.

But her husband is a police officer.

“I also do know the comfort that there are still good officers out there, and my husband is one of them,” Joseph said.

People in attendance shared their ideas for how to tackle the problem. Someone said police should spend time in classrooms and attend school athletic events when they’re off duty and not in uniform so they can see black children as humans. Someone else said schools should spend less money on school resource officers and more money on social workers.

Broward school board member Rosalind Osgood attended the meeting. She stressed that the officers involved in the incident with Rolle were not school cops. She stressed it’s now a state mandate that there’s a police officer or armed guard on every school campus, and she said there are school resource officers who help make schools safer. But she implored any students in the room to tell her if they are mistreated by SROs, so she could try to take action.

She said she was outraged by the viral video showing police “abusing” Rolle.

“We have to keep on people’s minds and hearts that this is not okay, and we’re not going to just tolerate it anymore,” she said.

Jessica Bakeman is senior editor for news at WLRN, South Florida's NPR member station. Previously, Bakeman served as WLRN's education reporter for four years. Bakeman was awarded the 2020 Journalist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.