Denton Group to Take On Race, Diversity Issues

Leaders in Denton hope to ease some tensions on the topics of race and diversity with the formation of a new group.

Mayor Chris Watts signed a proclamation Thursday to make the Denton Together Coalition official.

The coalition aims to create an open dialogue about diversity and race in the area and foster better relations by attempting to tackle perceived inequalities.

The group is made up of city leaders, including the mayor and police chief; diversity organizations like the NAACP and LULAC; local colleges UNT, TWU, and NCTC; area school districts and local churches.

During the group's first public meeting Thursday night at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center on Denton's southeast side, dozens of people came out to hear what the leaders had to say.

Everyone in attendance sat in a large circle and went around the room telling their personal stories and viewpoints on the state of diversity in Denton.

"We've got to be brutally honest," said Pat Smith, who leads Serve Denton and is a leader in the coalition as well.

Residents spoke about the need for better communication about race in town as well as better education on the topic in schools and in the general public.

One resident said he'd like to see better trust fostered between different racial groups through better communication about people's differences; he hoped steps that will prevent violent ends to situations.

That was a big theme for many as several people touched on the lack of communication between people's own personal "groups."

"Any problem can be solved by people," one resident commented.

Speakers also brought up creating better perceptions and better communication between the police and diverse populations.

Mayor Watts told attendees that he decided to create the group after attending local memorial services for the victims of the massacre at the AME church in South Carolina earlier this year.

"We need to create an environment where we can get together and honestly talk about these issues," said Watts.

The group plans to hold at least two more meeting in other parts of town to keep gathering information on the topic from residents.

From there, leaders say they hope to create events and initiatives to address some of the problems and figure out ways to better approach these topics in case a major issue was to come up in the area.

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