published Thursday, December 19th, 2013

TIME TO SPEAK UP: Forum on race, reconciliation and truth-telling set for tonight in Chattanooga

A forum on race, reconciliation and truth-telling will be held at 6 p.m today in the Bethlehem Center gym in Alton Park, hosted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The meeting is open to the public and will include frank discussion about the high number of unsolved murders in Chattanooga, the code of silence in the community and the divide between police and residents.

A Chattanooga Times Free Press investigation published Sunday, "Speak No Evil," showed many black city residents don't trust police and many cases go unsolved because of this dynamic.

"This could be the beginning of something huge," said Skip Eberhardt, a former drug dealer who now works with gang members trying to get their GED. He will take part in the forum.

The forum also will include discussion about Chattanooga's new violence reduction initiative, a model created by nationally recognized criminologist David Kennedy and already working in cities across the country including High Point, N.C.

Gretta Bush, president of the High Point Community Against Violence nonprofit, will be present to explain how police and community relations improved in High Point with new policing strategies.

Other panelists will include Paul Smith, Chattanooga public safety coordinator; community member Kurt Robinson; Kevin Muhammad, a Nation of Islam youth worker; Lucas Fuller, Chattanooga police investigator; Chris Blackwell, Chattanooga police investigator; Joe Smith, regional director of Y-CAP; Charmaine Goins, a former gang member who now helps community members start businesses; Greg Miller, an ex-con who directs a nonprofit that places felons in jobs; Neal Pinkston, executive assistant district attorney; Cameron Williams, assistant district attorney; and Bill Speek, a defense attorney.

During the two-hour forum panelists will be questioned by moderator/reporters Joan Garrett McClane and Todd South as well as community members present.

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