Tonight Barry Cohen organized a town hall meeting to discuss race relations. The Tampa Bay Times, in a headline that reads, “Tampa attorney Barry Cohen pushes hard for conversation on race“ , reports that Barry Cohen claims that the race issue is systemic , citing recent riots and protests, and needs to be dealt with. TBT has a quote by Cohen in regards to the predominately black communities in Tampa where there is gun violence and little cooperation with law enforcement. “The anger, the frustration, the hopelessness is all present here.” Cohen is also quoted saying he has had enough and is tired of his professional circle sitting around and not taking “preventive action.”
Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick, who was not attending because of a conflict in schedule, is quoted as saying he has been part of too many talks that end without a “plan of action.”
In 2008 the Tampa Tribune reported that Barry Cohen urged the development of urban debate teams. The article indicated that Cohen was working with the president of the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues in order to develop debate teams in Tampa. Cohen in the article stated,
“I have always been sensitive to the plight of African-Americans and the unfair way they were treated.” Cohen was inspired to develop an urban debate team after watching the movie “The Great Debaters”.
According to the Tampa Tribune article Cohen said, “he loved the way Washington’s character stressed the importance of education as a way to overcome the obstacles and prejudice the students faced.” In fact Cohen showed the movie to 200 youngsters at a private event in the same place the town hall is being held tonight.
Question 1: What is the plan of “action” in dealing with the problems plaguing these communities? Most of us already know about the problems.
Question 2: Were you able to develop the Urban Debate Teams?
If not developed yet, wouldn’t Barry A. Cohen Hall be a great facility to use to allow the youth in these communities to practice and perfect debating skills with the help of skilled and seasoned attorneys such as yourself? I would propose the first issue to debate is how to address police abuses in a positive, peaceful, and legal manner to effect change. The investment of time in such a worthy educational project to help young people facing the obstacles and prejudices you are calling attention to would be a first good step in taking preventive action. Maybe you can convince some in your professional circle to volunteer some time in debate coaching the young people in these communities instead of just sitting around.