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Task Force Holds Forum on Racial Disparities in Cville - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Task Force Holds Forum on Racial Disparities in Cville

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The city of Charlottesville is trying to get to the bottom of racial issues in the city. Talks kicked off to gain community input about how to end disparities between black and white youth in the city.

Tuesday night's forum generated a lot of discussion about race in Charlottesville. Dozens showed up to give their input about why these racial disparities exist - and how to put an end to them. 

"It's hurtful, but I'm not surprised because I know what goes on in our community," said Deirdre Gilmore, who lives in Charlottesville.

A study released in 2011 from the University of Virginia showed Charlottesville and Albemarle County have more work to do when it comes to racial disparity. The study was then presented to City Council, whose reaction was to create the Task Force on Racial Disparity.

The data paints a picture of racial disparity in Charlottesville - in the child welfare system but mainly the juvenile justice system. Statistics show black youths are five and a half times more likely to be in juvenile detention than their white counterparts, and that black youths in the city are more likely to also have a sibling in the judicial system and to only live with their mom.

"We need to come together, we need to deal with the judicial system, we need to have programs for our kids, it needs to be a collaborate effort," Gilmore said.

That's what the consensus was at the first forum held by the task force: community-based solutions. 

"We need this, we need this opportunity as a community to talk about what can be done with this issue," said Jeree Thomas, with JustChildren, a program that's part of the Legal Aid Justice Center. 

The discussion was focused on existing problems, especially in the juvenile system but also on why the system may not be as objective as it should be. 

"The whole point of this task force is to see why we're seeing these disparities between black and white youth in Charlottesville," Thomas said. 

But some say there are still a few missing pieces.  

"I think we really need to hear from the youth. I think we have to have the youth in the room to hear from them and to listen to their perspective," said Joy Johnson, who lives in Charlottesville.

The city commonwealth's attorney was at the forum. Organizers say they hope to get more police officers involved at the upcoming forums. 

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