Community Leaders Discuss DeKalb's Recent Protests

Jun 1, 2020

The death of George Floyd sparked outrage across the country. Many cities held protests. DeKalb was one of them. A couple of community leaders talked with WNIJ about this weekend’s demonstrations.

A protester from Saturday's march.
Credit Spencer Tritt

Joe Mitchell is the senior pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb.

Mitchell said he would normally lead demonstrations within DeKalb’s African American community but he intentionally took a step back this time.

“If we’re really going to be about the change that we want to see in the society that we’re living in,” he said, “it’s going to take nonblack folks to step up and to step out and do some work. If the only people that are talking about racism and fighting racism, are people of color, nothing will change.” 

He also said the protests showed how the community can come together.

“I think having people of so many different backgrounds in one place was very instrumental,” he said. "And too, to see the number of people who believe that change is necessary, who believe that you know, we have to do things differently in the country that we live in.”

Beth Campen, who is white, is an organizer for DeKalb’s Beloved Community. She said members are feeling grief and trauma right now. She shared a conversation she had with an African American woman.

“She was crying, and then I could hear her husband crying. We're talking about people in their late 50s. We're not talking about kids here.”

Protesters from Saturday's demonstration.
Credit Susan Stephens

Mitchell said the protests were baby steps and hopefully those steps lead to bigger ones.  

When asked about the looting that took place, Mitchell said he was concerned for the safety of those who were participating. He tried to diffuse the situation because he said there has been enough bloodshed in the African American community.

Mitchell and Campen say they are not sure what’s next for the community. But they both agree that more diverse conversations amongst leadership need to happen.

Yvonne Boose 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.