Artists, police promote community dialogue on diversity, peace

In this August 2013 file photo, Juneau Police Chief Bryce Johnson, center, gathers with officers at the Juneau Police Station during National Night Out. JPD is hosting a community event from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Marine Park to encourage a healthy dialogue about diversity and ending violence.

Juneau business owner Christy NaMee Eriksen said she was troubled for days after watching the most recent online videos of white officers killing black men that have reignited a national conversation on racism.

 

“I felt like there was this national mood going on that hit us locally,” Eriksen said. “I spent a lot of days feeling very sad and very angry. I came out of that dark space and wanted to do something constructive.”

Eriksen said she turned to her art form, writing, to try and make sense of complex issues in a way that her community could experience and share with her. Eriksen and her friend Melissa Garcia Johnson came up with the idea for an event featuring artists’ pieces that could help facilitate a discussion in Juneau about these recent national events and their effects.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center, different Juneau artists will use their respective crafts to create a dialogue focused on justice and anti-violence. The event, titled “Racial Justice and Anti-Violence: A Creative Conversation,” will feature visual works, performances and a community discussion portion. The event is free and open to the public.

“I have to believe that the work that we do is not in vain and that it can be useful to people,” Eriksen said.

Organizations including the Sealaska Heritage Institute, the Black Awareness Association of Juneau, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Perseverance Theatre, the UAS Native and Rural Student Center, Northern Light United Church, the Juneau Interfaith Coalition and the Juneau People for Peace and Justice have committed to the event as a sign of solidarity.

The Juneau Police Department, another supporter for Sunday’s event at UAS, will also host a community event to further local togetherness and open dialogue. From 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Marine Park, JPD will provide free hotdogs to anyone who wants to come out and celebrate the city’s diversity while taking a stand against violence.

The event is for those who want to “be counted as a person against violence, against discrimination, and against hate,” according to a JPD press release. During the event, guests can also express their feelings about recent violent attacks across the country on a white board that will be provided.

Recently, Juneau officers wore black mourning shrouds over their badges to honor the five Dallas police officers shot and killed earlier this month while on duty at a rally protesting violence against black people. Since the shooting, community members have dropped off flowers and balloons at JPD’s station to thank them for their service and to mourn alongside them.

[My Turn: JPD Chief on recent tragedies]

“Coming together publicly is the strongest action a community can take to show we will not be divided,” JPD Lt. Kris Sell said in a statement.

JPD is asking people who would like to support the gathering to bring hotdogs, buns and condiments to the park. JPD will provide some supplies to get the event started, along with a grill and people to cook the hotdogs.

For more information about Sunday’s justice and non-violence event, contact Eriksen at christynamee@gmail.com.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

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