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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

DeKalb Black Lives Matter Town Hall Spotlights Police Reform

Jenna Dooley
City of DeKalb Sign


Some DeKalb residents want the city’s Mayor Jerry Smith to be more specific on plans to address police brutality.  


The mayor spoke at a town hall Thursday night at Hopkins Park. The gathering was a forum on reforms related to justice and equality. Smith expressed support for its aims, but said he couldn’t talk details at the forum. 


As the mayor made a comments referring to people of all colors inclduing green and blue and a protest he attended in 1961, 20-year old Trinity Alexander, visibly frustrated, interrupted the Mayor:


“You know you can hear me cause they can hear me and I don’t even have a mic on," said Alexander. "You heard what I said. Everything you said just sounds like empty promises. You need to actually say, 'I hear you, this is what we’re going to do.'” 


Alexander said the Mayor wasn’t addressing the question of police reform and racism in DeKalb. 


“The only promise they said was 'We will talk.' And if that's not the empty promise in the world, I don't know what is to be real,” said Alexander.


The City is hosting a virtual town hall on Monday night before the city council meeting.Those wishing to speak will be limited to three minutes. Future forums are planned. 


  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.
Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.