CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Many people showed up at the Black Men United Rally in Marshall Park on Wednesday.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell, who organized the event, says since there are many African American male leaders in Charlotte things should be better for black males.
“We have so many African American leaders,” Jerrell said. “We want men to actually stand up and lead this effort. We are disproportionately impacted by all of these issues and we want to be able to lead this effort.”
Numbers show black men face several issues ranging from getting pulled over or shot by police more often than white men to lacking job opportunities. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles read a proclamation stating racism is a public health crisis at the rally. Lyles believes there should be examples of racism presented to help drive the point home that racism exists in Charlotte.
“When Black businesses start out,” Lyles said. “Can they get a line of credit just like their white counter parts - I really feel that’s not going in a way that’s judged equally between the two races.”
Lyles says the work now begins and it will take everybody to do their part.
“This isn’t just something we are going to do for a few days, people have been committed,” the mayor said. “We as a city have to deal with how we reform issues in our police department and how we develop the kind of department we are all proud of.”
The rally included a speech from Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham, whose sister was killed five years ago in the Mother Emanual AME Church shooting in Charleston. The rally took place on the fifth anniversary of the shooting.
Graham and others at the rally denounced racism. He told the crowd now is the time to take a stand and now is the time for leaders to make a difference.
“If you don’t use your power, if you don’t use your influence to make change - get the hell out of the way,” Graham said. “Hold us accountable.”
After the rally, people marched to the Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon Street. The crowd shouted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.”
City leaders say they are ready to discuss what the next steps should be and how Charlotte can lead the way for other cities when it comes to tackling race issues.
“How do we make progress on race relations? What policy do we need to change?” Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell asked. “Five years from now, I don’t want CMPD and citizens not working together - five years from now I want the tenth largest city to be a model of race relations in America.”
At the Black Lives Matter mural, people knelt for eight minutes and forty-six seconds - the same amount of time George Floyd had a police officer with a knee to his neck. People left the event optimistic.
“I think over time you’ll see some systemic change in housing and jobs,” participant Harold Carrillo said. “Financing, brutality - less brutality on black folks and other folks in America. People have finally woken up - as they say we woke.”
Black male leaders say they will need everybody’s help to make change. They say they will keep track of their progress to make sure they are committed to the people.