The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice held a virtual town hall meeting June 19, Juneteenth, to explore the consequences of police brutality and its impact on black American families, and to develop a plan of action against it.
Panelists at the conference included Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, Rep. Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha, D- Wilmington North, and Kerri Evelyn Harris, community organizer. Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, the panel focused on criminal justice reform, particularly in Sussex County.
Jennings noted that there have already been criminal code reforms since 2019. They include a rewrite of the drug code, and expungement of arrest and conviction records. However, she said there is much more that needs to be done.
Additional changes that Jennings said should be included in the Delaware Criminal Code are: a stronger, codified use-of-force standard, a statewide civilian review board, banning violations of civil rights, mandatory and universal body cameras, banning knee- and chokeholds, and mandatory participation in a do-not-hire list.
Jennings recommended Delaware citizens who want to bring about change to call their legislators and write to local press to express their support for specific police reforms. She also said that people need to get close to the cause and step out of their comfort zones.
Immediate courses of action include House Bill 350, which would create the crime of aggravated strangulation. Delaware already bans the use of such force, but this bill would make it a crime. There is also Senate Bill 191, which would amend Article 1 of Delaware’s Constitution to include no discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin.
SDARJ member Calvin Jackson also recommended two upcoming programs that people could join to start discussions about race and racism. One is a six-week series presented by the YWCA and SDARJ called Dialogue to Action. The group contains six weekly sessions of eight to 12 people talking about race and putting solutions for ending racism into action. The sessions will meet through Zoom sessions and start in mid-July.
The League of Women Voters of Delaware is also presenting an ongoing series called The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awareness Program beginning in early August. The series will be presented in all three Delaware counties.
For information, visit sdarj.org, www.sussexlwv.org or womensmarchsussex.com.