Opinion: The pain that underlies tragedy in our streets

A group of protesters marches north on Atlantic Street during the Black Lives Matter protest in Stamford, Conn. Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A group of protesters marches north on Atlantic Street during the Black Lives Matter protest in Stamford, Conn. Sunday, June 7, 2020.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

The events of the last two and a half weeks have caused us all to live in an America roiled by rage, worry and strife the likes of which we have not faced in more than a generation.

I was born and raised three miles from the site of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. I felt compelled to put pen to paper — not because the world will, as Lincoln once said, note or long remember what I say here, but in the hope that the nation will remember what happened there.

Let’s be clear: Fatal clashes between people of color and law enforcement didn’t begin with George Floyd’s horrific death on that sidewalk in my hometown. The question facing our nation is: Can this moment be turned into a movement for this country to deal with issues that have been festering for centuries?

Each of us views the world through our own lens.

Here in Connecticut, news of the June 3 charging of four Minneapolis police officers with Floyd’s death arrived just one day after Connecticut Public broke the story of the Wethersfield police officer involved in a deadly police shooting in that town quietly tendering his resignation.

The tragic shooting of 18 year-old Anthony Jose “Chulo” Vega Cruz by officer Layau Eulizier Jr. just 14 months ago is still very raw and real. Connecticut Public examined the dynamics that led the lives of those two men to collide on Wethersfield’s Silas Deane Highway on April 20, 2019, in “Collision Course,” the inaugural documentary of our investigative journalism project.

Sadly, Chulo was only one of 21 people who had deadly encounters with police in Connecticut over the last five years.

So, what are Connecticut’s residents, communities of color and institutions such as law enforcement, the justice system, political policymakers and journalists to do at this moment in time to turn the energy behind these historic demonstrations into a movement to end these brutal deaths?

We recently shared with our 100 employees at Connecticut Public that for us, the answer is clear.

Continue to shine light on the underlying issues driving these tragedies and know that your efforts to examine will help us move toward understanding and healing.

Keep doing the brave work you’re doing to help Connecticut citizens understand the facts of these moments of upheaval and investigate the resulting dynamic on our towns, cities, state and nation.

Lastly, to all of our fellow citizens of Connecticut who assemble in peace, who speak to power, who worship with devotion, who publish these words — and those who read them: My colleagues at Connecticut Public and I will commit to exert our energies and talents to access and share knowledge, seek truth and connect the people of this state to their communities and the world to move us all toward a stronger and fairer Connecticut.

Mark G. Contreras is president and CEO of Connecticut Public, which his home to Connecticut Public Television and Connecticut Public Radio.