From protesting on the streets to cleaning them up, a new group is working to improve relations between the black community and Carbondale police.
Police and members of BLACC, Black Love Adjoining Communities Collectively, say this is a first step in moving forward together.
Brandi Gayles scrubbed away Thursday morning at graffiti on a Carbondale business during BLACC’s first community cleanup event. Someone else sprayed it, but she says it’s important they clean it off.
"We just wanted to make sure that the community understood that we aren't for this. This isn't what we're about, and we definitely wanted to come fix it," Gayles said. The Carbondale resident and mom says her kids love to join in with peaceful protests and, if it wasn’t so hot out, they’d be out helping her clean.
The group is small for now — still new — but members say they’re hoping every time they go out with a bucket to clean up part of the town, they can change the conversation and build a new relationship between the community and police built on respect.
"Us coming to clean this up is just extending our hand and saying hey, this isn't us. Let's start over fresh and get some dialogue with the city," said Jonathon Moore, who helped organize BLACC . He is also a local Black Lives Matter organizer in Carbondale. He says they need to separate from the typical BLM protest for community action, because they need to improve conditions at home before they can worry about national issues. Moore says Carbondale has big issues between the black community and police and that needs to change.
"There's a divide, and it needs to go away," Moore said. He said BLACC will also help separate them from an anarchist group that protests around town, Moore said his group doesn’t support violence in any way, and he hopes differentiating themselves from any other activists shows that to the community.
Thursday’s cleanup effort has support from the Carbondale Police and Mayor Mike Henry. They say they appreciate the help in the community and the peaceful nature of the group.
Gayles said it’s great to be out helping the neighborhood, and it feels good to be giving back to the community and supporting the black community in a way that even her kids can get involved with.
"We are all about love and not about the hate. And my kids will be at so many more," Gayles said.
Members of BLACC plan to approach city council to create a dialogue and a real plan between police, the city and the group to improve the relationship with the black community in Carbondale and throughout southern Illinois.
For more information about BLACC and to find out how you can help with their community outreach, email Jonathon Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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