Home Faith-based civil rights organization works toward peace, unity between police, communities

Faith-based civil rights organization works toward peace, unity between police, communities

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MovementForward Inc, based in Atlanta, is a solution-focused civil rights organization founded in 2015 by a group of faith leaders.

“We needed an organization that not only brought us together,” said President and CEO Rev. Markel Hutchins, but an organization that provided solutions to challenges. Twenty-five years in civil rights advocacy, his mentors include Jesse Jackson, John Lewis and Coretta Scott King, as well as others who followed the teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MovementForward supports civil rights, the LGBTQ community, women’s rights and the rights of the disabled. The organization’s mission is to finish the work and continue the work of King by focusing on actual solutions.

“We need actual solutions to some of the challenges,” Hutchins said. And solutions will only come if we all work together instead of focusing on Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. Hutchins said that more unites us all than divides us if we only take the time to get to know each other.

In 2019, the organization expanded and is working to bring peace between law enforcement officials and communities.

“There is a need for innovation in law enforcement,” Hutchins said.

Police cannot reduce crime in a community without that community’s support, which requires positive police engagement within the community. Hutchins said that often police officers are not familiar with the culture and demographics of the community in which they serve. It’s time for police to “dig deeper” and engage the community during non-law enforcement activities.

“Fear is driven by a lack of engagement,” Hutchins said, which fuels conflict between a police officer and an armed suspect. For example, Hutchins said that George Floyd was killed in Minnesota when a police officer did not recognize his humanity. Policy reform and relational reformation of law enforcement is long overdue to see a reduction in officer-related tragedies.

MovementForward began National Faith and Blue Weekends in 2020 in all 50 states “to unite law enforcement and communities through faith-based organizations in those communities.” Events such as these can help restore trust and reduce bias, according to Hutchins.

“It’s very easy to fear those you don’t know,” he said. “We’ve got to reduce the mutual bias and the mutual fear at the same time.”

Communities must desire and work collaboratively with police to help create change.

“We are not going to be able to march our way or force our way,” Hutchins said of today’s challenges. We need to turn to each other and not on each other. Community members can seek to know police officers on a personal level.

“It’s not the police’s job to keep our communities safe,” Hutchins said.

It’s the community’s job to keep each other safe. Law enforcement wants and needs a community’s help to keep it safe.

“It’s up to every one of us to help so we can have the change we all want to see.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.