'Black lives or all lives?' panel next week in Elgin

Updated 2/17/2016 4:51 PM

The "Black Lives Matter" movement may not be making national headlines as often as it did a few months ago, but it continues to be a relevant, everyday topic that can elicit strong feelings and even misunderstandings.

That's the thinking behind a panel discussion next week titled, "Black Lives Matter? Or All Lives Matter? A Courageous Community Conversation" organized by Elgin's human relations commission, which hopes the event will lead to "a little bit more tolerance" from all sides, chairman Bill Williamson said.


"I don't think there is ever a bad time to discuss this kind of topic," he said "It's still something that is very charged, and whenever it comes up in conversation, there are very strong feelings or it stirs debate. Our aim is to demystify for people what (the movement) is, and what it isn't."

The panelists will be Chicago attorney Marcia Thompson, a certified mediator who's worked with corporations, government agencies and law enforcement; Phillip Reed, who serves as a diversity consultant for the city of Elgin; and Deb Perryman, a teacher at Elgin High School who engages students in community-based service learning projects.

The event takes place at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Heritage Ballroom of the Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way. Commissioner Bob Whitt, a pastor from Elgin, will moderate.

Asked if the commission supports the "Black Lives Matter" movement, Williamson said that's the wrong way to frame the issue.

"Just look at the title for the panel and the question mark," he said. "We don't want anybody to feel uninvolved or like they shouldn't participate. This should unite people, as opposed to divide people. It's really centered around what the 'Black Lives Matter' movement is and isn't."

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Commissioner Danise Habun agreed.

"There is such confusion and diametrically opposed positions related to 'Black Lives Matter,' " she said. "We're hoping that this conversation will help answer questions, and that it will lead to a dialogue about the fact that if there is a focus on 'Black Lives Matter,' it doesn't mean that all lives don't matter."

The conversation is important in Elgin because of its diverse population, Habun and Williamson said. According to U.S. Census data, about 44 percent of the city's 110,000 residents are Latino, and about 7 percent are black.

"The human relations commission is charged with basically promoting and fostering positive relations in the city of Elgin," Williamson said. "Elgin has a large diverse group, so to have it here only makes sense."


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