A Black Lives Matter group in Wichita, Kan., originally planned a protest Sunday but instead had a cookout with police.
Following recent officer-involved shootings and acts of violence, the Kansas Black Lives Matter Group wanted to voice concern. Tuesday after a long discussion with the Wichita Police Department, the group decided to cancel the Sunday protest and instead come together with officers for the First Steps Cookout, a gathering in a local park aimed at taking the first step towards building a relationship between officers and the community.
Officers served hamburgers and hot dogs and played basketball with members of the community. Kids jumped in bounce-houses and blew bubbles. Officers and the community even danced together.
But, the tone wasn’t about food and fun. It was an opportunity to have difficult conversations aimed at change.
Jarvis Scott, a black man who sat at a table with a Hispanic man and a white man, next to Lt. Travis Rakestraw, told The The Wichita Eagle it was the first time since 1992 he’d sat down with a police officer. The other two said it was their first time sitting with an officer.
“It takes two parties to make a healthy relationship,” Chief Gordon Ramsay said.
During the Q&A part of the cookout, Ramsay took questions from the community about racial profiling, transparency and building relationships.
Community members weren’t shy to voice concerns. One of the first questions asked how a barbecue would help address concerns about racial profiling, and if the community was being bought off with food.
Ramsay answered questions on the spot and also offered to meet with community members later.
“I do want to challenge other police departments and communities to do the same things with first steps community cookout,” Ramsay said.