A pair of panel discussions starting this week aim to look at the changing landscape of race relations in Cincinnati during the past 20 years since the police killing of Timothy Thomas, and how recent events and movements are shaping the path forward.
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC), Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library (CHPL), the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and the Woman’s City Club of Cincinnati will host From Riot to Protest to Civil Unrest: Conversations About Race Relations in Cincinnati on May 13 and 25.
The panels aim to gather journalists, activists, leaders and academics to talk about what we've learned, forgotten, and ways to move forward. That includes looking at the civil unrest following Thomas' death and the current Black Lives Matter movement.
Eric R. Jackson, Ed.D. is a professor of history and director of the Black Studies Program at Northern Kentucky University. He's one of the panelists for the first event on Thursday.
"We have made progress on some levels when it comes to, particularly in Cincinnati, the Collaborative Agreement between the community folks and law enforcement," he says. "It has been a model for other cities and other municipalities to, if they choose, use it as a model to improve race relations."
Jackson points out the agreement led to some economic improvements and community development. However, he notes we're in a time now where there are "alternative narratives about one's reality when it comes to race and race relations."
He says that means there are structural issues that some people don't want to tackle because they affect how Cincinnati has developed over time on issues of race relations, diversity, equity, and inclusion. He says those issues extend further, for example, to acknowledging the nation's first several presidents enslaved people.
While the panel topics are tough, Jackson wants people who participate to leave with a sense of hope and understanding.
"If you can't give people hope, you can't give people a way to move forward — to understand that we're all in this boat together as not only Cincinnatians, not just Americans, but as human beings," Jackson says. "My hope is to give people an avenue to express what they need to express; understand the historical context of which we're dealing with at this time; and bring hope, too, that if you don't understand where you came from and where you are, you're sure not going to understand where you're going."
The discussions are May 13 and 25 at 7 p.m. Registration is free but required.