Around 200 people showed up at a race relations forum in Sanford on Tuesday evening, which was co-hosted by FOX 35 and the Orlando Sentinel. The forum was held in conjunction with the "In the Shadow of Race" series in the OrlandoSentinel.
FOX 35's Valerie Boey co-moderated the event along with Orlando Sentinel columnist and editorial writer Darryl Owens.
It was a chance to bring the community together including church pastors, residents and local leaders like Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and Interim Police Chief Richard Myers. The forum also presented an opportunity to ask city leaders any question about race relations.
Community Activist Oscar Redden said he has been a victim of discrimination and is sick of it, telling the crowd, "We in Sanford are tired of messes! We are! I talk to people. We know that some of these things we have to learn from."
Redden is concerned about changes at the Sanford PoliceDepartment. Interim Police Chief Richard Myers said he has been revamping the department since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, but major hires will be left up to the future police chief.
"My only focus is entry level, because that's where the department is able to meet the surface needs of the community," said Myers. He added that he is looking for talented candidates, whether or not they are minorities.
Pastor Valarie Houston of the Allen Chapel A&E Church said she would like to see people hired with both qualities.
Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson said the marches that took place last spring weren't just about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged in Martin's death.
"I think people got the purpose of the march mixed up. They thought the purpose of the march was to go after one man," she said. "The purpose of the march was to say, 'Let's get rid of the inequality and injustice in the system!'"
Mayor Triplett said the city is working hard to come up with a solution to improve race relations, and that's why he continues to sit and listen at community forums. "I don't think we've come up with the answer yet," he said. "So you continue to listen and trudge through the mud to get there."
Houston added, "The only way to move forward is to get an understanding with the way they feel about certain situations."
Jackson said these types of events do make a difference. "I feel we have community activists that are pushing. And that's what activists do, we push and agitate and we move."
On Wednesday, the city will be hosting a meeting on what people are looking for in a new police chief. It takes place at 4 p.m. at City Hall.