CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte native and Grammy award-winning rapper DaBaby took part in a discussion with city leaders about systemic racism and police reform in our area.
The “Black Lives BEEN Mattered” event happened at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture on South Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte. Friday, which is also Juneteenth.
DaBaby was joined by Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston, former Carolina Panther Thomas Davis, Director of Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services Sonya Harper, Judge Elizabeth Trosch, ACLU organizer Kristie Puckett Williams along with others.
“[This is] an opportunity to give people whose voices aren’t heard, whose voices don’t reach a million people, the opportunity to be heard,” DaBaby said to kick off the conversation.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles urged residents to get out and vote.
“How many of you know your state representative or actually show up to work with the governor? Show up. Speak out. And vote,” Lyles said.
Community members asked questions, some even coming forward with a little criticism.
McCrorey YMCA Director Dena Paulding called on DaBaby to use his platform to mobilize his young fans into action.
“Give the people something so that they will come and mobilize and vote and be apart of this system so we can change it,” Paulding said. “It is broken.”
DaBaby agreed he needs to step up.
“I need to be educated on voting to speak for these kinds of people,” DaBaby said.
There were discussions over de-funding the police and starting scratch with a new criminal justice system.
Mayor Lyles says it's about giving people the chance to be heard.
“It’s not always about policing in the streets,” Lyles said. “It’s about policing the things that they say you cannot get what you dream for.”
DaBaby says he wants to do more to use his platform, and says he wants to be more educated on the value of voting among other things.
Puckett Williams is a Regional Field Organizer for the ACLU of NC’s Campaign for Smart Justice, advocating for bail reform.
During the discussion, Puckett Williams, who has participated in several protests, spoke about an effort on Saturday to bail fathers out of jail so they could be home for Father’s Day. Thomas Davis said he making a $100,000 commitment to help the cause because he knows how important it is for fathers to be there for their children growing up in the black community.
Braxton Winston: recalled being one of three black students in senior class at Davidson College. Lyles recalled being part of the first integrated class in Columbia, South Carolina.
Sheriff McFadden spoke about the troubling issues regarding racism and community-police relations in Charlotte. He says the current happenings in the nation is a movement, not a moment.
Sonya Harper said criminal justice services are currently pulling partners together from different agencies to have uncomfortable conversations.
DaBaby organized this event as a call on elected city officials and community leaders to join him in the discussion for change.
“I had my own experiences with the police. It’s time to have a serious conversation about police reform and systemic racism in our city,” DaBaby said. “Black lives been mattered and will always matter.”
Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment organizers say the discussion would be centered around police reform, systemic racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement in North Carolina.
A fresh start could be possible for some Mecklenburg County jail inmates, thanks to former Panther Thomas Davis.
He announced a spur-of-the-moment pledge of $100,000 to a bail fund with a goal of reuniting fathers with their families for Father’s Day.
“It’s about action,” Davis said. “I wanted to make sure I help in this community.”
Sheriff McFadden was lost for words.
“We want to connect the fathers with their children and build the bridges and create re-entry,” McFadden said. “For Thomas Davis to do that today, I’m still emotional about it.”
In Dec. 2019, CMPD launched an internal affairs investigation after DaBaby, whose real name is Jonathan Kirk, was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and resist, obstruct and delay hours after he gave gifts to 200 local children for the holidays.
After he was cited, DaBaby told reporters he feels targeted when he comes to Charlotte. Local activists were also upset with the way CMPD officers treated DaBaby.
“Absolutely. Every time I come here, every time,” DaBaby said. “They follow me, they pull us over for no reason, they search our cars, they do everything. They treat us like animals.”
Will Adams with Team True Blue was handing out presents with DaBaby to families in need. He said the prior situation with CMPD would widen the chasm between the community and officers.
“As a community leader as we’re trying to instill love and hope back to the community and we’re trying to bridge the gap between the police and the community this type of stuff makes it hard,” Adams said.
DaBaby spoke about this incident during Friday’s discussion.
“Why have 20 cops try to find someone who is trying to do their job when you have real bad things going on?,” DaBaby said.
Friday’s event aimed to address some of these issues with productive discussion surrounding community-police relations in Charlotte and the state of North Carolina.