First Steps: Police Break Bread With Black Lives Matter

wichita police deptInstead of just rants, hashtags and going back and forth on social media, one community in Kansas decided to try to come together to actually do something about the racial divide happening all over the nation.

Sunday night the police hosted an event in Wichita’s McAdams Park that drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 people. The name of the gathering was the ‘First Steps Cookout.’

The event was held to bring the police department closer to the communities that they serve.

A large crowd gathered in McAdams Park enjoyed free food and the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with law enforcement. To start the conversation, break down the walls and start the healing–on both sides of the law.

“Very good vibe. Very good vibe. It’s everything I was hoping for,” says Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. Ramsey suggested the event to Black Lives Matter protesters after a recent protest.

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The Wichita Police Department brought the burgers, grilled and served the food. Many others also brought food, contributing what they could to the barbecue.

With the goal in mind of changing the hearts of some so that policy change can happen, the barbecue took place instead of a planned protest for Sunday night. You saw people who don’t normally talk to each other, actually have conversations. Both Black and white, police and citizens shaking hands, voicing their frustrations and breaking bread together.

Ramsay had said the barbecue was an opportunity for citizens and police to be introduced and to have positive interaction. Nearly 400 people pledged their intention to attend the event with an RSVP. More than double that amount attended.

People at the barbecue said it is the right way to respond to the unrest going on across the country.

“It’s about a common ground. People getting to know other people. The police getting to know us on a personal level,” one Black man said.

The turnout at the barbecue was especially encouraging for some following the events that unfolded earlier in the day in Baton Rouge with three officers fatally shot by a gunman.

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“Especially after what happened in Baton Rouge today, just makes it all the more painful. But I just feel very proud of my city that there’s so many people here,” says Margaret to KWCH channel 12 at the cookout.’ “It’s wonderful.”

Civilians and officers say the barbecue was a concrete step toward bridging the gap between people and police.

Part of the event included a Question and Answer session with Ramsay. Some in attendance did take this opportunity to voice frustrations.

One man says he viewed the cookout as an attempt to take attention away from real cause of the tension between some citizens and police.

Ramsay says his department is committed to making things better.

“This isn’t something we’re going to change overnight or tonight,” he says. “Everybody’s gotta come together. And work on policy changes, relationships. And that’s what’s going to get to the heart of the issues.”

Light can conquer darkness. Be the light.