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Peoria's 'Big Table' Serves Up Frank Discussion on Racial Equity

More than 150 participants gathered during a Zoom call Tuesday as part of a frank discussion about race, equity, and justice in Peoria.The panel, hosted by Andre Allen, dean of students at Methodist College of UnityPoint Health, featured an hour of questions prepared ahead of time and fielded from the community.

The “Gather Around Justice” panelists included Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell, Peoria City Council at-large member Dr. Rita Ali, and Mariah Cooley, a sophomore college student and member of the activist organization Young Revolution.

Common topics in panelists’ answers included the need for self-education and awareness, police reform, keeping an open mind and a willingness to listen, and addressing poverty and disproportionate unemployment in Black communities.

Unanimously, the panelists agreed that community members should be heard by voting, and learning about the laws they’re voting for.

"How do you register to vote. You know, I'm a college student. How do I request an absentee ballot? Or I don't want to go out because of COVID. How can I vote by mail? And things of that nature. And making those resources knowledgable to not only the younger generations, but to their families, as well," said Cooley.

Near the end of the hour, Asbell emphasized the need for people to be aware of these issues, especially after the conversation ends.

"So, we just have to not stop the conversation. Racism, it can be like a virus. Look at it like a virus. And there's a lot of people who are asymptomatic, and they don't even know they have it," he said. "And we have to focus on that."

The panel was organized by The Big Table of Greater Peoria, an organization looking to start discussions in the community.

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