Breaking Barriers and Building Relationships:
Community and Police Dinners
In August 2016, Noho Marcasei and myself, Sam Sachs, were discussing the murders of Walter Scott and many other people of color by the police. We were also concerned by the 5 Dallas Police officers who were murdered We were numbed by all the violence and hate and saddened to see communities being separated into us vs them.
We realized that we both have numerous friends from very diverse backgrounds: Samoan, Jewish, Black, Latino and we also have many friends in law enforcement.
I suggested to Noho, that we invite all our diverse friends of color we know personally and ask them to join us for a dinner. I also suggested we invite as many police officers as possible and encourage them to join us for dinner.
The goal was to bring together the friends we know from our diverse community. The focus and goal was to encourage people of color and the police, to sit down and break bread with one another. We asked both parties to try and put aside any bitter feelings in hopes of creating a safe environment for them to start a dialogue. Our desire was to begin to build trust, relationships, friendships and ultimately, for each group to see the value in each other.
Below are the guidelines we implemented for the first dinner, which we proudly still abide by:
- If you are a person of color, sit with a police officer.
- If you are a police officer sit with a person of color.
- Introduce yourself as a human being and engage in conversation / discussion. The topic is up to you.
- Keep an open mind and be respectful. Listen and hear what the other is saying, it’s their “truth”.
- No one is required to share their conversation with the rest of the group, it’s all about one-on-one relationship building.
- Please donate money for food. Noho donates his food, space and staff to this cause and all we ask is you help defer some of the cost with a donation, even if it’s only $1. We also don’t want money to deter people from attending.
- We start with a non-denominational prayer to ask God or the greater power to bless those who have come together for the greater good and to protect and remember those who have died from senseless acts of violence.
- We have a moment of silence as well to pause and remember the community members and police who have died.
- We eat great food and enjoy each other’s company.
In September 2017 we celebrated 1 year of dinners . We have raised or matched approximately $5,000. We donated $500 each to The Blazers Boys and Girls Club and the Portland Police Fallen Officer Memorial.
We hosted 25 kids of color from The Boys and Girls Club and 15 police officers to attend a Portland Trail Blazer Basketball game.
We continue to host these dinners at least once a month and invite other businesses to duplicate what we are doing and assist in hosting a dinner. We are grateful to the hundreds of people of color who have come out to share a meal and engage in a friendly dialogue with the police. We thank all the police from Portland, Gresham, West Linn and Multnomah County for participating in “Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers and Building Relationships.”