Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
Angelica Morris, executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, used Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words to encourage local residents to stand together following the recent tragic killings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, as well as in Michigan on Monday.
“This is not about cops versus blacks or blacks against cops,” she said during a memorial service at The Bridge Christian Church on Crane Street on Monday evening. “This is all about us as a race of people, people of faith. It’s not about building walls to block a group of people. It’s about destroying barriers and walls, and building bridges.”
The service in Mont Pleasant drew about 50 or so people to celebrate and remember black men Alton Sterling, 37, and Philando Castile, 32, and the five officers killed during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.
On Monday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said nine other officers were wounded in the sniper attack orchestrated by Micah Johnson, 25. Before the service in Schenectady, news broke in Michigan that two bailiffs were killed by an inmate inside a western Michigan courthouse.
“I felt compelled with compassion and empathy to organize this event due to the feelings of numbness, grief, anger, shock and disbelief we all have felt as we received all these horrific and inhumane acts of senseless violence against our human race,” Morris said.
Schenectady police Sgt. Ryan Macherone said he was consumed with apprehension going into the Community and Police Basketball League on Saturday following the tragedies.
The league kicked off its third year Saturday, bringing together police officers and young adults in the community to play basketball and discuss police interactions and neighborhood violence.
“In the wake of the shootings, I asked myself, who is honestly going to come and play basketball with us, the police, at a time like this,” Macherone said in his emotional speech.
He said several questions plagued him:
If they do come, will they talk to me?
Will they hate me for what I do for a living?
Am I going to be embarrassed in front of the officers I recruited to play?
“I drove there with a knot in my stomach,” he said.
But when Macherone walked into the YMCA in downtown he was welcomed with an outpouring of respect and support.
“I walked into the gym and the stands were filling,” he said. “Over the next hour, familiar faces began pouring in followed by hugs, handshakes, smiles, jokes and laughs. To me this speaks to the strength of our community, to the optimism of the young men and women who still, after all we’ve been through, have not given up hope.”
Macherone said a program like the league, which typically plays its games at Jerry Burrell Park in Hamilton Hill depending on the weather, would not solve the issues facing the country, but is an example of a success story.
“The purpose is to bring officers and the community together to open lines of communication, build trust and have fun,” he said. “I urge you to come together to come to an event, like the basketball league, and see what’s being done right.”
Monday’s service was attended by members of the community along with local officials and pastors, who led people in prayer and song.
Morris called on the community to channel their anger in positive ways.
“We had our own challenges with law enforcement but we’re proud to be able to say the community and law enforcement joined forces and rose to the occasion, and addressed the negatives with positive steps,” she said. “Today is the beginning to strive to unify the people of different races, colors and cultures.”
On Wednesday there will be a community conversation on violence and police brutality at 7 p.m. at the Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church.
The Rev. Horace Sanders Jr. will moderate the discussion, which will include religious leaders, Black Lives Matter members, city officials and police officers. The church is at 1068 Park Ave. in Schenectady.