Orlando Speaks (OS) was born when, as a nation, we took notice that unarmed black men and women were being killed by police. For many decades, black communities had been cognizant of this sad fact. It took widespread media coverage and personal video, however, for these tragedies to be revealed to the nation at large.
The crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 following the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, prompted Rachel Allen, Director of Valencia College Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) to begin Conversations on Race for the College’s students. According to Allen, this was a model designed to provide a safe space for crucial conversations - one that required respect, decorum, civility, and deep listening and used the College’s 13 Principles for How We Treat Each Other as the foundation for authentic, respectful dialogue.
The mission was to form relationships, to open up dialogue, so that if and when a tragedy such as that in Ferguson happened, we would be able to move, as director Rachel Allen said, “from crisis to conversation” without the destructive unrest that often follows such a tragedy.
The City of Orlando had a relationship with PJI, with one of its staff being a member of the PJI Advisory Counsel. The following year, in May 2015, PJI invited the City of Orlando to participate alongside students at another Conversations on Race hosted at the College. Staff including Marcia Hope Goodwin (Chief Service Officer & Director of the Office of Community Affairs and Human Relations) and Reginald McGill (Constituent Relations) attended.