Mayor meets with specific group of activists amid protests; FOX13 investigates who has a seat at the table

Watch: Mayor Strickland meets with local activists

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says he’s working with activists and community leaders to improve how the police department interacts with black people. FOX13 is taking a closer look at who got a seat at the table for this discussion.

During an impromptu news conference Wednesday, Strickland had a group of clergy members and all men standing behind him.

We’ve heard from several activists who said they’ve requested meetings with the mayor about improving race relations and they haven’t gotten a response. They also said they’d like to see more inclusion in these discussions.

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“This can’t be where we pick and choose the people who make us feel the most comfortable,” said Rev. Earle Fisher of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church.

Fisher said he is one of several pastors who reached out to Mayor Strickland for a meeting but hasn’t gotten a response.

“This has to be where we are committed to bringing people to the space and honoring people’s experience and expertise – not matter how we feel about them personally,” said Fisher.

This week, Mayor Strickland said he’s been meeting with community activists to improve how the police department treats black people.

“I don’t have the answers. I don’t have all the questions but these folks behind me have started a conversation with me to open my eyes and teach,” Strickland said at Wednesday’s press conference.

FOX13 obtained a copy of a list of community leaders who met with Strickland Wednesday including activists Devante Hill and Frank Gottie. A majority of the people on the list are men and clergy members with only one woman pastor.

During his recent news conference, FOX13 asked the mayor what the criteria were for getting an invitation to the meeting.

“We started this discussion days ago with this group and it culminated in a personal meeting today but we had talked about this and I think Mr. Hill has shown himself, and Mr. Gottie have shown themselves to be the leaders of the peaceful protests,” Strickland said during the press conference.

FOX13 also requested a one-on-one with Strickland about this effort but his office said he was unavailable. A spokesperson said this effort is evolving and involves more than just the mayor. They added that Devante Hill invited these specific leaders for the meeting Wednesday.

FOX13 talked with Hill over the phone. He said these leaders have held him accountable in the past and he believes they would hold the mayor accountable too.

Fisher said these meetings are a step in the right direction but he believes there needs to be a push toward more inclusion moving forward.

“There are black clergywomen who I think should be more included,” said Fisher. “I think we live in a city that’s 65% black almost 30% impoverished, so I think we need to be mindful of socioeconomic inclusion. You gotta be honest about conversations that need to include the LGTBQ+ family.”

Strickland said he’ll meet with this group once a week for the next month and they’ll make joint announcements about their concrete actions for change.

Full list of the community leaders who met with Mayor Strickland Wednesday, provided by DeVante Hill:

DeVante Hill – Protest organizer

Frank Gottie – Memphis activist

Bishop Linwood Dillard, Jr. - Citadel of Deliverance Church of God in Christ

Senior Pastor Bartholomew Orr - Brown Missionary Baptist Church

Bishop Ed Stephens, III - Golden Gate Cathedral

John Carrol – founder of Choose 901

Pastor Keith Norman - First Baptist Church Broad

Apostle Tony Wade - Divine Life Church

Pastor Marron Thomas – Innovation Church

Luke Pruett - City Leadership Director

Pastor Rufus Smith – Hope Church