Dear OC Forum Community,
On June 11, we proudly brought together a group of leading voices from the Orange County community to discuss The Future of Race Relations. The live virtual program was part of our "The Future of" series and was moderated by the Honorable Letitia Clark, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Tustin.
Guests included Kelsey M. Brewer of Jamboree Housing, Eugene Fields of CAIR Los Angeles, Dr. Douglas M. Haynes of UC Irvine, Bill Lewis of 100 Black Men of OC, Robert V. McDonald of the OC Black Chamber and Bayo Thomas of Bank of America.
Clark began by speaking with Dr. Douglas M. Haynes, vice-chancellor of equity, diversity & inclusion and professor of history at UC Irvine. Haynes discussed how violence is largely seen in the history of African-Americans, from the history of slavery and all the way through the Civil Rights Movement of 1964 to now.
Haynes added on to this by saying, “part of the reason African-Americans have mixed feelings is because we’ve seen this before, and we know the outcome.” He also took a deep dive into how this correlates with the police violence of today.
Next, both Bayo Thomas, senior vice president - consumer business banking region executive of Greater Orange County at Bank of America, and Robert V. McDonald, president and CEO of the OC Black Chamber, shared their business perspectives on the issue. Thomas talked about how businesses in the community can take a stand with the people and put in investments towards projects bettering areas in Orange County that may need it.
In regard to the current protests, Thomas stated, “we have to expand this conversation to force structural changes.” McDonald followed up by saying that it is important that diverse leaders and business partners can open up new dialogues and start conversations that we need to have.
After, Clark sat down with Bill Lewis, a retired police officer and board member from 100 Black Men of Orange County, and Eugene Fields, communications manager of CAIR Los Angeles. Lewis shared his experience of growing up in the projects in New Orleans, while Fields reflected on his experiences growing up in Southern California.
Lewis shared, “The reality of it is, when I leave my house, I never think in terms of somethings going to happen that’s going to be racially motivated, but at the same time, I know in the back of my mind I have to be prepared if it does. That’s just the reality of being a black man in this country.” Both encouraged others to continue having conversations about these issues since they can lead to impactful changes down the road.
Lastly, Clark sat down with Kelsey M. Brewer, communications & policy manager of Jamboree Housing and chair of the OC Young Democrats. Brewer shared her ideas of how analyzing and rethinking our typical approach to the systems we currently have in place can lead to a more diverse future.
She went on to say that having difficult conversations and funding different programs can help communities broaden their focus and priorities. “We need to have a broader definition of what public safety means in this country,” said Brewer when talking about changing our focus. The program concluded with a live Q&A featuring Brewer, Fields, Haynes and Clark.
We appreciate all of our speakers for their openness to share their personal experiences with our audience. We believe that during this time it is important to create spaces like this where voices can be heard, and critical discussions can take place that help shape our future.
At the height of the program, we welcomed more than 340 live viewers, and since the live airing, the video has brought in more than 1.7K views on YouTube. If you have not had the opportunity to view the program, the video will be permanently available on our OC Forum YouTube channel.
Written by John O'Neill