United for Peace Coalition Hosts Virtual MLK Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion
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Virtual MLK Panel Discussion

The United for Peace Coalition hosted a virtual panel discussion yesterday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The United for Peace Coalition is a partnership of peace, diversity, and inclusion and interfaith-focused organizations. We advocate for understanding respect and unity among all people in our diverse communities. We also believe in nonviolence and promote peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and negotiation,” said Shalini Gupta, president of United for Peace. “It has been delightful to work with people and organizations that are equally passionate about the same dream, the dream that Dr. King had: for seeing a world that is inclusive, respectful, equitable, nonviolent, and peaceful.”

The panel discussion, “Realizing Dr. King’s Dream through ‘Good Trouble’ and Nonviolence,” included elected representatives, law enforcement representatives, community organizers, and youth leaders.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, who serves the 14th Congressional District was a panelist. She spoke about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would create stronger systems of accountability and transparency of policing across the country.

“We’re here today connected by our mutual goal of achieving equity and justice for all. Of achieving Dr. King’s vision for our country, a vision that’s not yet realized, and one he gave his life for,” said Underwood. “These bills represent steps in the right direction, but there’s so much more work to be done to realize Dr. King’s vision and meaningfully address the many inequalities and help education.”

Congresswoman Marie Newman of the 3rd Congressional District was also a panelist.

Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall

Police Chief Bob Marshall

Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall was also a part of the discussion. He talked about the steps the police department took after the protests in Naperville in summer 2020.

“We must constantly look for ways to improve our department,” said Marshall. “One of the things we did at the Naperville Police Department is during those protests I had the opportunity, as well as with many members of my staff, to go on ‘listening tours.’ And I actually sat on the back porch with some of our black residents and just listened to what their fears were about the police in general and I learned a lot.”

He said the department also did an after-action report that looked at their policing tactics, strategy, equipment, and talked about police reform. The entire department also goes through implicit and explicit bias training.

He also believes changes need to happen with the arbitration process.

“Two years ago I took an officer to an arbitration for using excessive force. That case still has not been decided. The arbitrator hasn’t rendered a ruling yet,” said Marshall. “That is just horrific when we as police chiefs move forward and we hold our officers accountable and then there is some other agency that prohibits us from doing our jobs.”

Chicago Police Officer Charles O’Connor also spoke.

Community Organizer, Thomas Armstrong

Community Organizer Thomas Armstrong

Naperville resident, Thomas Armstrong was a freedom rider in 1961. Armstrong spoke about how Dr. King’s dream can be realized today.

“We can realize a just society through a process of peaceful protests, marches, and others. We can realize a just society by embracing our allies and recognize that we all have important things to bring to the table. We can realize a just society by not demonizing all the members of an entire group,” said Armstrong. “We can realize a just society by infusing our own lives into our our organization, our companies, our government with the spirit of equality and diversity. Dr. King’s dream may be realized by allowing other people into organizations and positions of power.”

Community organizer Henry Cervantes was also a part of the panel.

Youth Leader, Marquell Oliver

Youth Leader Marquell Oliver

Youth leader and founder of community organization Pure Alchemy, Marquell Oliver, talked about the youth’s role in making change.

“It is important that we continue to keep people invested early on, being able to show them the ropes and show them how things are supposed to go, how things went, and how we can usher in new ideas,” said Oliver.

Youth leader Prevail Bongo also spoke.

The panel ended with a Q&A session.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.


photo credit: United for Peace Coalition