Tacoma City Councilwoman Victoria Woodards was uncomfortable with a local event in memory of two black men killed by police being held somewhere besides one of the city’s black churches.
All of the other memorials had been held at black churches.
But that fleeting feeling lasted but a moment before she realized the effect the service Monday night at Life Center in Tacoma could have.
“Get yourself into an uncomfortable place, figure out why you feel the way you do, and that is how you get change made,” Woodards told the about 200 people at the church at 1717 S. Union St.
Woodards was among 12 elected officials and community leaders who spoke at the event in honor of Minnesotan Philando Castile and Louisianan Alton Sterling, who were both fatally shot by law enforcement.
The event also honored the five Dallas law enforcement officers fatally shot Thursday night by a sniper.
Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell spoke at the event, praising the interactions between his department and the community, and noting how much effort and time has taken.
“It’s a challenging time for police and community relations, and we know that,” he said. “I feel grateful ... working in Tacoma. And we have great relations with our community.”
Ramsdell was on vacation last week but came to work Friday after the shooting, he said. A phone call followed from the Rev. Gregory Christopher, minister of the Shiloh Baptist Church and leader of Tacoma’s NAACP chapter, asking what he could do to help the police.
“It goes a long way as to how our relationship has evolved,” Ramsdell said. “When Pastor Christopher called me, that was very touching.”
Christopher, the event’s first speaker, asked for a moment of silence in honor of the seven slain men. He followed it with a request for another, this one for the family of the Dallas shooter.
“I thought that was important because if my love is authentic, my love cannot leave anyone behind,” Christopher said.
Woodards, the Tacoma councilwoman, focused on a quote from a person she was eating with at a conference in the wake of the shootings: “Outrage is OK, but outrage without action changes absolutely nothing.”
She tied that into the end of her speech.
“When you leave here tonight, take action,” Woodards said. “We need to be outraged at what happened and change something.”
This article has been corrected: A quote in this article originally said Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell lives in Tacoma. He lives in Fircrest.