Amid the Epidemic of Police Shootings and Racialized Violence Supervisor Ridley-Thomas Hosts Leadership Dialogue to Discuss Issues of Racism, Policing, the Pandemic and Beyond

Los Angeles County (September 02, 2020) – In response to an increase in shootings of unarmed Black men and women, including the recent shooting of Dijon Kizzee in South Los Angeles, and subsequent protests against the racialized violence endured at the hands of law enforcement towards communities of color, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in collaboration with the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles (INLV), led a leadership level virtual dialogue on Racism, Policing, the Pandemic + Beyond. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Days of Dialogue, a nonpartisan organization geared towards bringing diverse communities together to discuss polarizing issues for community change.

“The epidemic of police killings of unarmed African Americans is an unrelenting outrage, and we all have every right to the anger and pain felt so deeply right now. But where do we go from here? Carl Segan once said, ‘You have to know the past to understand the present.’ In order to influence change, we need to identify the root of the issue – and Days of Dialogue is a step in the right direction,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

For over 25 years, Days of Dialogue has convened civic, business, ecumenical and community leaders to discuss timely social and political issues facing communities. In the midst of rising threats of racial violence as well as its implications for both community well-being and individual endeavors, Days of Dialogue provides a forum for leaders to address tensions. Days of Dialogue has taken place in political town hall forums in large civic auditoriums, to smaller venues such as neighborhood libraries, churches, and today, via a virtual platform.

Attendees to this the invitation-only dialogue, included; Commission Chair of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans; Los Angeles Police Chief, Michael Moore; Los Angeles County Public Defender, Ricardo Garcia; Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas; President of Saint Mary’s University, Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson; and Bishop of Faithful Central Bible Church, Kenneth Ulmer.

Recently, the Board of Supervisors made a historic decision to establish an Antiracist Policy Agenda, but this motion is only the beginning of a process to change Los Angeles County governance, policymaking, and service delivery. Subsequent to this motion, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas moved to ensure greater transparency and accountability within county law enforcement. The recent shooting deaths of murder of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee by law enforcement and the COVID-19 pandemic have created an environment that has made the need for dialogue even more urgent.  Underscoring this need, participants spoke about the origins of racism and police violence and reflected on its persistence in the midst of a pandemic.

“We cannot let the winds of change die. We are living a movement to push systemic racism to the forefront of America’s consciousness. We must look to the institutions, their values, their history, and their rewards to understand how best to make permanent change. Racism is a plague that infects and seeks to put us against one another. It is self-perpetuating and feeds on lies and fear. Only in solidarity can we defeat racism,” said Public Defender, Ricardo Garcia. “Honest dialogue, real talk, is the way to look at our institutions and understand what action is required. Thank you, Days of Dialogue, for continuing to encourage community discussion to promote healing, action, and, most importantly, change!

“Days of Dialogue has allowed community members to have courageous conversations on very sensitive social topics for decades. These kinds of gatherings are more important as ever as we work to dismantle racist practices and bring communities together,” said Commission Chair of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans. “We are grateful to Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and Avis Ridley Thomas for creating and continuing these community dialogues.”

“I have participated in sessions of Days of Dialogue for many years and have always felt it is an excellent opportunity to express your inner feelings and get immediate feedback.  It is a very important tool for communicating,” said Los Angeles Police Chief, Michel Moore. “As an attendee of previous Days of Dialogue, I hope to gain insight based on what is currently happening in Los Angeles and across the Country, with the various demonstrations the people demand for change.  Change is needed in Law Enforcement and many other institutions within society.”

Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson, President, Mount Saint Mary’s University had this to say:

“Days of Dialogue are crucial for people to share their lived experiences, speak honestly and bravely, and be heard. They invite discovery and develop common values around a shared sense of accountability towards the dismantling of systemic inequities. We must educate ourselves to deepen our understanding, response and commitment to addressing racism and advancing racial equity. I am hopeful today’s conversation will spark creative solutions to combat racism, particularly anti-Black racism, and widespread injustice that we see in our neighborhoods and around the country. In doing so, we recognize that racial justice work is a process that requires a systematic approach. Therefore, we stand as an ally in the re-imagination of a just and equitable society.  I am grateful the Board of Supervisors is approaching these issues with a collaborative lens.”

“A past participant in Days of Dialogue, I am proud to partner once again with this critically important forum for our community as we deepen our understanding of racial justice around the COVID-19 pandemic and other pressing issues,” said Arthur J. Ochoa, JD, Senior Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer at Cedars-Sinai.  “I look forward to strengthening relationships with a diverse array of community leaders at a time when unity and compassion are more important than ever.”