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More civic engagement urged following Brown, Garner Grand Jury cases

On December 11th, members of our community gathered at the Dumfries-Triangle Rescue Squad for “A Community Conversation.”

In light of the Grand Jury decisions in the cases involving Michael Brown and Eric Garner, members of the community gathered to discuss ethnic relations in Prince William County, and how citizens can become more involved in civic engagement opportunities in our communities.

The panel for the Community Conversation included Mr. Willie Toney – Vice Mayor of the Town of Dumfries, Pastor Keith Savage – of First Baptist Church of Manassas and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (V.O.I.C.E.), Ms. Hala Ayala – President of PWC NOW, and Mr. Ralph Smith – Civil Rights Leader and PW NAACP.

During the conversation, participants addressed their concerns in our communities involving the economy, cultural inequities, police relations, diversifying the (political) table, and how we can serve our communities. Citizens were encouraged and inspired to become more involved, and to take on leadership roles in their communities as volunteers, serving as mentors for our youth, increased participation in civic organizations, etc. Vice Mayor Toney encouraged participants to serve on Boards and Commissions in their Towns, as well as on the County levels.

Participants were encouraged to attend Board of County Supervisors meetings, School Board meetings, as well as Town Council meetings, and to make citizen’s comments when necessary. It was mutually agreed that minorities need to have a greater presence at community meetings.

“Make your presence a springboard to your power,” said Pastor Keith Savage.

At the conclusion of the “Community Conversation,” participants committed to bringing forth positive change in their communities by actively engaging in civic engagement opportunities. As a result, a Facebook page has been created to: maintain an open line of communication with participants and serve as a platform to continue dialogue from the event, to discuss potential solutions to systematic issues, and to keep everyone aware of community meetings, and opportunities where our presence and voice are needed.

We may not have all of the answers to systematic issues in our community, but one thing we know for sure: having a healthy dialogue is the first step towards finding a solution. Similar events are being planned throughout Greater Prince William, and citizens are encouraged to participate.

“Community Conversations” will be held quarterly in our community. The next event will be held in the spring, and education will be the topic of discussion.

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