Amid Tensions, Dialogue for Change and Reform

Amid increased tensions ignited by the tragic murder of George Floyd and recent deaths of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee at the hands of law enforcement, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in collaboration with the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles (INVLA), convened leaders from across Los Angeles for a virtual dialogue on racism and policing during the pandemic and beyond. In what marks the 25th anniversary of Days of Dialogue, a nonpartisan organization that brings together leaders from different sectors and communities to discuss difficult issues to catalyze change, the discussion was as timely as it was necessary.

As a prelude to the invitation-only dialogue, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas, delivered remarks pertaining the importance of dialogue as a powerful first step towards reform and change. Specifically, he noted “the epidemic of police killings of unarmed African Americans is an unrelenting outrage, and we all have every right to the anger and pain felt so deeply right now. But where do we go from here? Carl Segan once said, ‘You have to know the past to understand the present.’ In order to influence change, we need to identify the root of the issue – and Dialogue is the first step in the movement for change.”

For 25 years, Days of Dialogue has convened civic, business, ecumenical and community leaders to discuss timely social and political issues facing communities. In the midst of civil unrest and racial tension ignited by the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial and rising threats of racial violence, Days of Dialogue provides a forum for leaders and community members to address critical issues. Days of Dialogue has taken place in political town hall forums, civic auditoriums, and smaller venues such as; neighborhood libraries, houses of worships, and today, via a virtual platform.

Attendees at his virtual dialogue included: Chair of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans; Los Angeles Police Chief, Michael Moore; Los Angeles County Public Defender, Ricardo Garcia; Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas; President of Saint Mary’s University, Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson; and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Faithful Central Bible Church.

“I have been a part of Days of Dialogue from very beginning. This much-needed conversation is a moment to embrace dialogue and create change like never before. Days of Dialogue has allowed community members to have courageous conversations on very sensitive social topics for decades. These kinds of gatherings are more important as ever as we work to dismantle racist practices and bring communities together,” said Commission Chair of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans. “We are grateful to Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and Avis Ridley Thomas for creating and continuing these community dialogues.”

“We cannot let the winds of change die. We are living a movement to push systemic racism to the forefront of America’s consciousness. We must look to the institutions, their values, their history, and their rewards to understand how best to make permanent change. Racism is a plague that infects and seeks to put us against one another. It is self-perpetuating and feeds on lies and fear. Only in solidarity can we defeat racism,” said Public Defender, Ricardo Garcia. “Honest dialogue, real talk, is the way to look at our institutions and understand what action is required. Thank you, Days of Dialogue, for continuing to encourage community discussion to promote healing, action, and, most importantly, change!

“I have participated in sessions of Days of Dialogue for many years and have always felt it is an excellent opportunity to express your inner feelings and get immediate feedback.  It is a very important tool for communicating,” said Los Angeles Police Chief, Michel Moore. “As an attendee of previous Days of Dialogue, I hope to gain insight based on what is currently happening in Los Angeles and across the Country, with the various demonstrations the people demand for change.  Change is needed in Law Enforcement and many other institutions within society.”

About the event, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has stated, “Because of this dialogue, I am reminded of what my good friend, Cornel West, has said: ‘None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.’ It’s not enough to support diversity and inclusion initiatives – It’s time we advance to the next level,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We need to identify and confront institutional racism. And, we must remain intentional about dismantling ideas and policies that maintain racial inequality. Hard work lies ahead of us in our collective fight to advance racial equity. Yet, I remain hopeful in our ability to create an equitable, antiracist Los Angeles. The success of Days of Dialogue demonstrates that we can do the work. Together, we can redefine political issues, reimagine outcomes and capitalize on bold new possibilities that transform our communities.”