Recap: Taking Action to foster a community conversation

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TENNESSEE VALLEY - Events across the country these past few days have struck a chord. It may be difficult to read or talk about the deadly shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas Police officers, but now is the time look at what we can all do to affect change.

WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to put all of this in context. Our goal is to help bring people together.

Huntsville Police Department Assistant Chief Corey Harris said the department has pulled together, and drawn closer to the community over the last two weeks.

"Thank God we've learned from Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Baltimore how to do this job better.

Religious leaders, also part of the conversation, spoke out on the role of churches.

"It's just a very diverse congregation and people," said Chris Mitchell, associate pastor at The Rock Family Worship Center. "Our churches really should look like our community."

Pastor Troy Garner of the Fellowship of Faith says the issue isn't new, but social media sharing it brings about a novelty that gains significantly more information.

"Unfortunately racism does play a part," Pastor Garner said. "[Philando Castile] was pulled over for a traffic citation and all of a sudden he's dead, and even the other occurrences, minor situations that resulted in death."

Debra Jenkins said that she, a white woman, and people like her have a responsibility.

"I benefit everyday from the color of my skin and I don't want to live in a country where that's allowed to happen because it isn't fair."

Jenkins added that if Caucasians can't admit the truth about racism, progress can't come.

Younger panelists discussed the hashtag war surrounding #AllLivesMatters versus #BlackLivesMatter.

"[#BlackLivesMatter activists] are not taking it away from the fact that all lives do matter, but we are trying to bring light and bright awareness to what is happening in our community," said Sandra Watkins, Oakwood University student and president of the school's NAACP chapter.

Dexter Strong, a Huntsville native and community activist, also wanted to help clarify.

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"Of course all lives matter, nobody is disputing that," he said. "The #AllLivesMatter hashtag, by and large, has been used to silence the Black Lives Matter testimony."

The newscast was a special discussion involving local law enforcement, faith-based leaders and community activists.

We talked about what many of you are likely already talking about with your family, friends and coworkers. Some of those conversations are a challenge. But they are needed so we can figure out how to move forward in a positive way.

We hope to foster a meaningful community conversation. This will be just the start of our effort to encourage understanding of issues across our country and the impact here in the Tennessee Valley.

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