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OU to host discussion on mental health, race, policing in collaboration with Norman Citizens for Racial Justice

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Olugbenga Ajilore

Olugbenga Ajilore, an associate economics professor from the University of Toledo, will join the Norman Citizens for Racial Justice group in a discussion on April 19.

OU will host a discussion next week on the intersection of mental health, race and policing as a part of a citizen effort to create a citizens' advisory board for community policing.

Olugbenga Ajilore, an associate economics professor from the University of Toledo, will come to campus for the fifth community discussion led by the Norman Citizens for Racial Justice group. The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. April 19 in Room 122 of Dale Hall.

OU economics professor and forum organizer Cynthia Rogers said Ajilore should be able to offer many insights into the topic of the forum, “Race, Mental Health and Policing,” due to his rich academic background in the area.

“He looks at actual data and does analysis and the sort of thing that gets you beyond anecdotes of, ‘Well, this happened bad, and this happened good,’” Rogers said. “What I’m hoping is that he can provide some guidance about how you would sort of evaluate how we’re doing and to look at how we could do better.”

Deon Osborne, OU political communications senior and Norman Citizens for Racial Justice member, said this will be the last community discussion held before the group takes a proposal for the creation of a citizens' advisory board for community policing to the Norman City Council.

Osborne said the push for the creation of an advisory board grew after the name change of what was formerly DeBarr Avenue and also followed the outrage at the Jan. 16 death of Marconia Kessee in Norman police custody. Osborne said the group wanted to find ways to include students in the discussion after the increase in activism by creating community forums at the university.

“Following the DeBarr issue, we met a lot of new allies, and we listened to a lot of concerns, and the citizens' advisory board came up with one of the primary concerns people wanted to see action on,” Osborne said. “We wanted to make sure that the students felt like they were a part of this discussion, so this is primarily for the students, but anyone is welcome to come.”

Rogers said she hopes people from all across the Norman community will come out to learn about and discuss the issues surrounding community policing and support the creation of an advisory board because these issues have an impact on everyone.

“I think it’s an issue for all of us,” Rogers said. “Who doesn’t know somebody that has some mental health issue? Who doesn’t know somebody who's a minority and has stories to tell about how they’re treated? We’re all affected because we all know people who are affected.”

Sierra Rains-Moad is a senior journalism major at the University of Oklahoma and a news reporter for the OU Daily.

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