Against the grain II

Akbar and McNeil hit a home run with community meeting on violence

Vaughn Wilson

The Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP hosted a community meeting on Mar. 30 at Jack McLean Park. The meeting was to address the rising violence in Tallahassee, specifically on the Southside.  Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil delivered the keynote address, which was centered on a study his department had compiled about the profiles of violent offenders.

McNeil was diligent in his explanation of what the analysis showed. The data was crystal clear.  “85 percent of homicide offenders had been suspended or expelled from school and 52 percent had attended an alternative, charter or detention school,” McNeil said.  The data, displayed on a pie chart in a Power-point presentation was staggering. It was a part of a report developed by LCSO titled “Anatomy of a Homicide.”

Attorney Mutaqee Akbar, President of the Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP, hosted the event on violence right in the heart of where a disproportionate amount of violent activities in Tallahassee takes place.  The event was attended in person by about 60 persons and several more online as it was broadcast via Zoom and streamed to Facebook.

What made this forum special was that it does what so many conversations of this nature miss… feedback and solutions.  After the Sheriff’s presentation, questions were submitted both in person and on Zoom.  After those questions were addressed, the meeting moved into an entirely separate segment.

Hearing possible solutions from the audience is what needs to happen in addressing any situation.  Without hearing from those directly involved, addressing the issue is theoretical and not practical. Thinking that only those elected or implementing a project are responsible for solutions is a recipe for disaster. Too often one direction solutions occur and most often they are not effective. 

The NAACP purposefully made the forum a non-political one, though in devising solutions political figures will play a major role in providing the funding to develop the LCSO’s proposal of a Council on the Status of Men and Boys (CSMB).  The CSMB would have a sole focus on the welfare of young men and boys and engage in efforts to head off issues on the front end.  This goes along with a position McNeil has been verbalizing since he became Leon County Sheriff, “By the time they are handed over to me to detain, it’s already too late.”

McNeil said the implementation of the Children Services Council could play a pivotal role in assisting to identify issues early and possibly addressing them.  He expressed his eagerness to work with newly-appointed director Cecka Green as collaboration is essential to the success of the initiative.

There are times where forums of this nature have side motives. Often these are done so that individuals can say they addressed an issue, but no real purposes are addressed. This forum needs to be the benchmark for community meetings in Tallahassee. By far, it was one of the best and most involved community interventions to date.