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Lynchburg race issues getting renewed attention, following recent events

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Aug 28 2013 04:38:59 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2013 05:47:59 PM EDT

They've addressed the topic before, but recent incidents are bringing the issue back to the forefront. WDBJ7's Tim Saunders is live in Lynchburg with more.

LYNCHBURG, Va. -

On the rainy anniversary of a civil rights milestone, a racially diverse mix of Lynchburg citizens gathered to talk about where we are now.

"Even though progress has been made, we still have work to be done," said Benjamin Hagwood, a Lynchburg resident.

The summer of 2013 has been one of racial tension in Lynchburg, from divisive comments at a city council meeting, to a police encounter that ended with a man's sudden death. Hagwood and other community leaders met at Riverside Park Wednesday morning to discuss the recent issues and announce renewed efforts to promote racial harmony.

"I think we know what the problems are. We are just going to have to face up to them and try to resolve them." said Walter Fore, a Lynchburg resident who has organized civil rights efforts in Lynchburg for more than 50 years.

Concerned residents like Fore are hoping to make progress on the racial front, by renewing the "Dialogue on Race and Racism." The program started six years ago, in response to another racially charged incident.

Today the dialogue is a citizen-led movement called "Many Voices, One Community." Organizers are working to address recent events, by starting a new conversation.

"This is an exercise for the community and we want them to feel empowered and know that their voices are being heard," said city council member, Ceasar Johnson.

"Many Voices, One Community" will hold its first annual "Race, Poverty, and Social Justice Conference" on Saturday, October 12 at Randolph College. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

In the meantime city leaders plan to meet with community members, to talk about what's needed to help Lynchburg address its lingering inequality issues.

"For right now the main thing is to reopen that channel again with the communities and those leaders in the communities," said Hagwood.