Wichita civil rights leaders discuss relationship between local African American community, police

Published: May. 29, 2020 at 11:08 PM CDT
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George Floyd's death and charges against a now former Minneapolis, Minn. police officer has civil rights leaders in Wichita wondering what they can do to keep something like this from happening again.

In 2016, a crowd gathered for a Black Lives Matter rally in northeast Wichita. A community barbecue, bringing the African American community together with local law enforcement followed that, but area civil rights leaders say more needs done.

"I think that was good. However, we didn't follow through. We didn't keep that movement going," says Kansas Senate Minority Leader Oletha Faust Goudeau, of Wichita. "We didn't keep that ongoing meeting at the park, building that relationship with the black community. So, we still have some of the same issues we had then."

Sen. Faust-Goudeau says there needs to be more of an effort to mend the relationship between the two groups (the African American community and Wichita police).

"We can't just do it one time for something this deep ingrained hurt and mistrust," she says.

Greater Wichita Ministerial League President Rev. Carl Kirkendoll says Wichita is "blessed" compared to other cities, with strong leadership in place, including in the police department and at City Hall.

He says the next generation needs to take the wheel for relationships to continually improve.

"We're getting our young people involved as well because this is affecting them and they're scared," he says, referencing the national reaction to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.

Faust-Goudeau agrees.

"We need to have those young people, black and white and brown and red, they need to be at the table," she says.

Kirkendoll says the community can't ignore that "(there are) some bad police officers out there, but the community also shouldn't forget "there's some real good officers out there as well."