At the heart of the discussion, which was presented in partnership with The Fire This Time Festival and entitled “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” was the issue of race, and how it has played a part in so many police interactions in recent years, including the death of Trayvon Martin, and more recently the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Jack founder Alec Duffy, who is a white male, recounted a recent incident outside of his space involving an interaction between a passing patrol officer and several of the performers in one of his theater troupes, all of which were members of various minorities.
“The officer rolled up to the curb and, seeing a large group of black and brown men, rudely asked what they were doing,” Duffy said. “Later, one of the people in the troupe said to me, ‘Alec, I wish you had been out there,’ and the thing is, it would’ve been different if I was there. I understand that.”
Brooklyn resident Mark Duke sat quietly for the first hour of the meeting before speaking up to point out that while we may have come a long way since our troubling racial past, there are still many issues remaining to be solved in our society.
“If someone who is Irish wants to celebrate something Celtic about their culture, then it shouldn’t be a problem,” Duke said. “And there actually is a black culture and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a great thing.”
Schellie Hagan, a local landlord and community activist gently reminded the crowd that while it is easy to criticize the police, “Cops are people too.”
“I was arrested on a false charge by a lesbian black neighbor and I spent two nights in jail,” Hagan recounted to the group. “At first, I didn’t know what they were talking about, but I complied because I wanted them to say I was the nicest person they ever arrested.”
The conversation continued for more than two hours, and while the theme of the night was to discuss and not to solve problems, there were some in the audience whose pessimism surrounding racial tensions with police turned to optimism for the future of these relationships with the encouragement of their peers.