Fort Wayne’s UNITED program hosted an open forum Wednesday night to discuss the impact of homicides on the black community, and how they impact the city as a whole.
The forum, which was held at the University of Saint Francis, featured several speakers to discuss their experiences as black men in the community. The panel format focused on several areas, including religious outreach and experiencing homicides firsthand.
One of the speakers was Tony Moore, listed as one of Fort Wayne UNITED’s “Emerging Leaders.” When discussing the biggest misconceptions of violence in the community, Moore spoke about negative perceptions people have of the black community based on fear. He says there’s a constant pressure to always be “conscious.”
“The stress of having to constantly prove yourself at every turn is mind-numbing. I mean at every turn," said Moore. "When the police pulls you over, you just have to be conscious that your hands are on the steering wheel. These are things that always go through your mind, and you can never forget that you’re a black male.”
Virgil Tharp is the executive director of Bedrock Youth Center. He echoed the sentiment of the unfair pressure placed on black men to keep up appearances compared to white peers.
“I used to have dreads that went halfway down my head, I got tired of getting pulled over," said Tharp. "I’m an educated man, but what people saw was a black drug dealer, a convict. Baby daddy.”
A video was shown with testimony from local black men, from sixth district councilman Glynn Hines to Ivy Tech vice chancellor Chris Cathcart, and many other leaders and residents involved with the program. You can watch the video below: