(NEW YORK) — One activist theater group in Long Island, New York, is hoping to repair what they see as the “beaten and broken relationship between law enforcement and civilians.”
Their tool? Thank you cards to police officers.
“We were very angry and frustrated after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson,” Truth Urban Theater Group’s co-founder Shadrack Boakye told ABC News Wednesday. “But rather than constantly arguing about it, we decided we needed to do something.”
The group, which performs on issues that affect urban youth, Boakye said, was inspired by the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
That’s when they came up with the idea of #CardsForCops after brainstorming positive ways to get a dialogue started between cops and civilians, Boakye said.
“We had kids in our community make thank-you cards, and we went out to the streets of New York City the Sunday after the Million March,” Boakye said. “We thought it’d be the best time to go because they’d probably really be on guard from the protests.”
— NYPD 19th Precinct (@NYPD19Pct) March 11, 2015
Boakye added that the members of the group talked about their fear of going up to cops doing this and the “very real possibility someone could be misunderstood and get hurt or shot” while doing the project.
“We were fearful for our lives,” Boakye said. “The first cop we went up to seemed very apprehensive, and we could feel tension, but then when they realized what we were doing, there was a complete transformation.
“The cop said what we were doing was amazing and couldn’t believe it,” Boakye said. “We could feel the love at that moment.”
The Urban Truth Theater Group has gone out to hand out thank you cards several more times since then, Boakye said, adding he’s even bringing along children from their community sometimes.
“These children were also scared at first,” Boakye said, “but once they saw the positive reaction from the officers, their eyes lit up, they smiled and there was a connection.”
After a YouTube video of the #CardsForCops project went up, Boakye said they got a lot of positive response from the community and got in touch with city officials.
“We’re going to hold a public dialogue in Brooklyn [on] May 2,” Boakye said. “The focus will be on the idea of a trigger — what triggers the officers and what triggers a civilian to help us better understand each other.”
— The Truth UTG (@TheTruthUTG) January 5, 2015
The Urban Truth Theater Group also plans to drive down to Ferguson and expand their project there.
“The fact is that there are officers out there that do not know how to do their jobs well or know how to communicate with civilians and vice versa,” Boakye said. “What we want is to facilitate better communication with each other to rebuild trust and unity within our communities.”
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