Springfield event wants to turn Facebook fights into community talks

How to go

What: Springfield Speak Out community forum

Where: Fellowship Spring Hill church, 714 N. Limestone St.,

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

A community forum Thursday hopes to bring heated debates about issues in Springfield from social media screens to real-life conversations.

Springfield Speak Out will take place at Fellowship Spring Hill church, 714 N. Limestone St., beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Anything from racial tension to economic development to justice issues will be on the table for discussion, organizers said.

Organizers Abby Glaser and Randy Smoot, both of Springfield, wanted to hold the event after being involved in several Facebook conversations with people in the community.

Social media conversations and debates often get people talking, Smoot said, but there’s often a lot of misinformation.

“We wanted to bring together people who have the answers into the conversation,” Smoot said.

Many times conversations and debates on social media don’t give answers to people asking questions. And often those social media posts come after tragedies such as police shootings or racially charged reactions to police across the country, Smoot said.

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“We wanted to start this conversation here in Springfield before we had tragedy,” Glaser said.

Unrest that’s happened in some communities after tensions between police and the community and other misunderstanding is what the pair said they want to avoid in Springfield.

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The forum will feature many community leaders including Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland and members from the local NAACP unit, Springfield Police Division, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Brian Keith of Promise Neighborhood and Pastor Jason Channels of the Champion City Vineyard church in Springfield.

“It’s easy to have lack of education over a computer screen, but if you sit down face-to-face with someone there’s a lot more understanding,” Glaser said.

Smoot was the owner of FreshLines Barber Shop in Springfield that burned down earlier this year. He held several community events at the shop, including collecting water to donate to residents in Flint, Mich.

The Speak Out event isn’t focused on one particular issue, organizers said, but they hope participants bring many questions and concerns about their neighborhoods and lives to the table for discussion.

The public is urged to submit questions or topics to be discussed, organizers said, but they must be submitted ahead of the night. Smoot and Glaser set up the email Springfieldohiospeaks@gmail.com for people to submit questions.

So far questions about race, economics, development, juvenile justice and policing have been submitted, Smoot said.

“We hope this is a starting point for more discussion,” Smoot said.