© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

After Week Of Racial Turmoil, Tallahassee Residents Voice Fears, Hopes During Prayer Vigil


Communities across the county are doing some soul searching in the wake of the deaths of two black men by police officers. And people are still reeling from the shootings of several Dallas police officers by a black army veteran. Now some Tallahassee residents are saying they'd like to see more conversations happening around race in America—and not just when tragedies occur.


Prayers and song marked Tuesday evening’s prayer vigil at Tallahassee’s First Presbyterian Church. And through those songs, messages of hope, as leaders of different faiths addressed the crowd. More than 400 people, came out to the ceremony. Among them, finance professional Roz Booker. She says racism is alive and well--- but it’s more subversive, now. And she believes it’s driven by Fear.

“What are you afraid of? Fear is a thing...it makes you behave out of the ordinary. And it causes you to react defensively. FEAR. False evidence appearing real. And I think that's part of the problem."

"That type of distrust isn't seeded overnight. This happened over a long storied history of our country. And we have to do everything we can to build a new tradition in our community."

While it’s avoided large scale tragedies, like the shootings of black men in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge—the city, and the region, has seen its share of divided lines. Two years ago a Tallahassee police officer tazed a 61-year-old woman on Dunn Street when she asked why members of her family were being arrested. Charges against them were dropped.  The death of a Kendrick Johnson, found dead in a rolled up gym mat at his high school, is still unsolved. And there’s Kaldrick Donald, who was shot by a Gretna officer in 2014 after Donald’s family called for help because he hadn’t taken his medication for a mental illness.  Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says he believes in tough but honest conversations between communities of color and law enforcement.

“I ought to know that the way you police the North side of town, won’t be different than the way you do it on the South part of town. That type of distrust isn’t seeded overnight. This happened over a long storied history of our country. And we have to do everything we can to build a new tradition in our community.”

Still, seeing a large and diverse audience of people from varying ethnicities and faith’s at First Presbyterian, gives Ken Boutwell hope:

“This is something our community has to do," he says, citing the vigil. "We don’t need anything like this to happen in Tallahassee.”

By “this” he’s pointing to the shootings of police in Dallas by a black army veteran, and the killing of black men Minnesota and Baton Rouge by police officers. But Boutwell has fears, too.

"I have this fear that all the hate groups will come out—and we’ll have more battery, and shooting back and forth," he says.

He’d like to see such community meetings become a regular occurance,  integrated into the fabric of Tallahassee.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.