Today begins a three-day initiative in Birmingham and beyond aimed at reconciling wrongs, building bridges and breaking down bias.
The National Faith & Blue Weekend is launching for the first time ever with the hopes of strengthening communities through mutual respect and understanding between residents, law enforcement and faith institutions that when they work together, organizers believe, neighborhoods thrive. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and MovementForward Inc. are convening the first of what they hope will be an annual effort.
“The mission is to facilitate safer, stronger and more unified communities,” said Birmingham police Capt. Janice Blackwell, commander of the department’s Community Outreach and Public Education division. “We’re trying to do that by a collaboration with houses of worship and law enforcement. We’re looking to do positive community relational things for the weekend.
Other law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama are taking part, including the Montgomery Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. On Sunday, the sheriff’s office will hold a Facebook Live event to discuss ways to bridge the gap between law enforcement and community. Montgomery police have events scheduled for each day, including a softball game, a Family Fun Day and a music and dance festival. A list of MPD’s can be found its Facebook page.
In Birmingham, the weekend event will kick off Friday night a virtual community dialogue that will be broadcast on BPD’s Facebook page. The panel included Chief Patrick Smith, Jefferson County district attorneys Danny Carr and Lynneice Washington, Birmingham Presiding Municipal Judge Andra Sparks and other law enforcement and community representatives. It will be broadcast from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
“The dialogue,” Blackwell said, “will cover reconciliation, biases, racism…what’s going on in the community and how we can make changes to what is happening.”
With all that is going on throughout the country, Blackwell said, they will discuss the role of the church. “How can the churches and police come together to make a better community,” she said. “We also want to focus on how the community can partner with police, not just this weekend but weekends to come. Let’s just come together and try to work out things for the good.”
Faith & Blue organizers want participants to focus more on commonalities rather than differences. “What does the police department have in common with the community?” Blackwell said. “Both of us want respect. The community wants respect and the police department wants respect. Safety is another thing. We all want to be safe. And trust. We want to be trusted and the community wants to be able to trust the police.”
On Saturday, Birmingham police will hold a Community Food Giveaway, – rain or shine – at the Sheraton Hotel at 2101 Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard. The giveaway will be held from 9 a.m. until noon or for as long as supplies last.
Also Saturday, there will be simultaneous prayer vigils in the North, South, East and West Precinct areas. Here are the locations for those: North – Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville, 3200 28th Ave. North; South – 23rd Street Baptist Church, 331 23rd Street South; East – Guiding Light Church, 1800 John Rogers Drive; and West – Holy Family Catholic Church, 1910 19th Street in Ensley. The vigils will be held from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.
“We’re praying for the community as a whole,” Blackwell said. “We’re praying that we’re able to collaborate come together to create a safer and more engaged community. Building strong neighborhoods is what it’s all about.”
On Sunday, BPD will hold a school supply and mask giveaway. It is a joint effort between police, Titusville AOH Church of God and 95.7 JAMZ. That giveaway will be held at police headquarters at 1710 First Ave. North from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. (BPD)
On Sunday, BPD will hold a school supply and mask giveaway. It is a joint effort between police, Titusville AOH Church of God and 95.7 JAMZ. That giveaway will be held at police headquarters at 1710 First Ave. North from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
Also Sunday, there will be a Virtual Community Youth Talk hosted by BPD and Jackson Street Missionary Baptist Church and moderated by T. Marie King, an activist and speaker. That will be broadcast on BPD’s Facebook page from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.
The final event will be a virtual concert held Monday from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The concert will be broadcast on BPD’s Facebook page and New Beginning Christian Ministry’s Facebook page. In addition to a gospel choir, Birmingham police Det. Erin Valentine Fitzgerald and Birmingham Officer Kiley Johnson will be singing.
“We want people to see the police department from a different perspective, especially the kids,” Blackwell said. “Oftentimes when police come to their house, they’re making an arrest. Maybe it’s their mother, or their father, and we need them to see it’s not always that way.”
“I think what we’re doing has really impacted people,” she said. “We have a good relationship with the community.”