By Donte Woods-Spikes

This is a letter to you and no one else. This letter is visible for everyone to see, but I only care when this meets your eyes. This may get to you tomorrow or it may reach you in the next 10 years. The purpose of this letter is not for the Police or Activist, not for Black people or White people, not to make me or your father look like hero’s…this is for our future and the sake of humanity. Your Father and I have been consumed by the harsh realities of life and recognize we belong to two different worlds. We also see those two worlds are divided, and know something must be done before the distance is to great…

This is our story.

When I first met your father…I was confused. I did not grow up with Police Officers around. The very few examples I had of them as a child were from a distance. They were either white bald men with sunglasses on no matter what the weather was, or…they just didn’t have the glasses on and everything else still applies. In 2016, Columbus Police Department hosted events where they gave people from the community and police officers and opportunity to connect with one another. At this point I was familiar with 3 police officers. Sergeant Ayres (a bald white guy) and Terry Kalous, the first female police officer I ever met, and Commander Strausbaugh. They all are assigned to the neighborhood I worked in. I felt it was time to meet more Police Officers in Columbus, but I didn’t want to attend the meeting because lots of times nothing comes from them except for more frustration and unanswered questions which leads to more division.

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I attended the second meeting on August 18th, 2016 in the Linden Area where I actually grew up at. When I got there I didn’t see any Officers that I knew. So I sat down at a table and began to talk. This is when I first met your father. He threw me off with his very youthful appearance.

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Commander Lang being promoted to his now position.

Not only did me and him talk to one another, but we had other people at the table as well who were giving input and sharing their views. Your father and I began to talk about how it’s easy to perceive one another because of the media, as well how our own ignorance plays a role in us being divided. That’s where we connected with one another. Everyone at the table came to the conclusion that it was great to talk to one another but we need to be more consistent with the conversations and be more visible to one another. After the talk, I asked your father if I could meet up with him again and discuss some ideas I had for community and police. He dug in his pocket and slammed his card on the table with a smile on his face and said “YES!”

I was confused again. I was so prepared for him to give me some excuse or say no, that I was shocked at how enthusiastic he was, especially during the time of how critical people are of Police Officers. Before the event ended, I was interviewed by the News about the event. Click here to see the interview.

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Afterwards I emailed your father and we set up a day to meet with each other. I invited him to Ohio Avenue, the school I volunteered at. As I’m driving to the school I drive past a police car. I made a left turn onto the street that ran into the schools parking lot. As I was getting close to the parking lot the police lights came on. I thought to myself “I’m going to go see the Police, but it looks like the came to see me first. The irony.”

The Officers get out the car. It’s a very young looking White female Officer and in the passenger side it was a older White male Officer. The young officer came to my drivers side while the older officer walked to the passenger side of my car. The young white female Officer said with a smile on here face “Hi! You made a left turn and I didn’t see you use your turn signal. Is it ok to see your license???”  I didn’t even feel like I was pulled over, I felt like I was just asked out to prom or something. She was waaaaay to nice and friendly. I wasn’t sure if it was a joke your father put together, or if he was testing me to see how I reacted to being pulled over by Police. I started to get suspicious.

So she’s at my drivers window all happy like this…

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I remember the older Police Officer is on the other side of me. So I turn my head like this…

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To see that he was staring into my passenger side window looking like this…

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I looked back to her and gave her my license and told her that I put my signal on. They went to the back of my car to check and see if the light worked. In the distance I saw a another police car park along the street where the school parking lot was. I was thinking to myself “Is it really THAT serious. Yall need 2 police cars and 3 officers for a turning signal?” I turned my signal on and she looked at the signal light inside the car with a smile on her face, while the other police officer was looking at my tail light. He asked if I cut the turning signal on. She told him I did, then he said the light wasn’t on. Inside my head I was thinking “HAHA! YALL ARE WROOOOOOOOONG!”

After that the young White female Officer smiled at me again. I smiled back at her like this…

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The older male Officer came around and said “Yea man, get that fixed as soon as possible. I’d hate for you to be riding around and another Officer pulls you over. A light bu..” That’s when the other police car drove past. I interrupted him and said “IS THAT AYRES!” They both looked confused…

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Ayres is an Sergeant stationed at the 12th precinct in the Zone 5 patrol area. I met him at the funeral for one of the young men of my teens group. Afterwards we met once again so he could be a part of a documentary I was starring in. I shared this picture of me and him together, which in turn ended up being shared over 1000+ times. (Our Story will be coming soon) Also the comment by Don Ricker is my sociology teacher from college…who was a cop as well. I talked about him in my Tedx Talk. Click here to see. (Skip to 3:30)

The Police car drove back around the Police Officer jumped out the car. It was Ayres. I jumped out my car and we hugged each other like we just won the World Series Championship game. Ayres said “I got so much love from that post you put on facebook!” The older Police Officer said to me “Oooo, so that was you!?” I said “Yea!” I gave him a hug too and the young police woman as well, then proceeded to talk to Ayres more. After speaking for about 2 minutes, Ayres said he had to go to a meeting. He got back in the car and left to get back to the precinct. The older Police Officer(now identified as Officer Shepard, great guy might I add) comes over, shakes my hand, and thanks me for my work and how much he appreciates my approach to community and police relations. Before he left he said “Be safe, not everyone is a fan of what your doing.” He was very right, but I’m to the point I don’t care about what anyone thinks anymore. I want everyone to be safe.

So I make it to the school before your father does and waits for him to get there. He comes in and instantly I told him I was pulled over on the way to the school. He gave me the “are you serious” look while I just laughed about it. After that we began to talk more about what I wanted to do with police. I told your father that I would like to volunteer my time and go to different precincts and speak to the police officers about my work, why I do it, and get their input as to what they would like to see happen in communities. He told me he would check with the Commander Strausbaugh to see if we could start in the Zone 5 first, since I was familiar with some officers and the area. We told each other we would be in contact with one another and began to part ways. Before we left, we took a picture together.

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A few weeks after we had the meeting with each other, something happened. The Police department your father works for made national news. A teen, Tyre King, was fatally shot by a Police Officer. I’m not sure how your father felt, but when that happened I felt very uncomfortable for a moment. I wasn’t sure where we stood and the moment with each other. I took my chance and emailed him to set up a date to meet again. He responded and we met up for lunch. We talked about a few things that were going on with both of us.

After we talked a little, I said to him, “I still want to go through with visiting precincts, but right now with everything going on…I’d like to wait to go through with the idea. I want to find the right time to do it.” We both got silent for a second. That’s when your father said

“There will never be a ‘right time’ if we keep waiting.”

After that we talked a little bit more, but I was stuck on what he said about the “right time.” I thought about the fact I had a brief moment of doubt towards your father and if he was as serious as I was. When he said those words, I knew he was. I felt exposed. I approached him with the idea to try and connect the community and police, but as soon as the Police involved shooting took place, I wanted to back down. I just sat there for a couple of more minutes in silence thinking about what me and him are both up against. I also thought about how hypocritical it was of me to say I want to wait to find the right time.

After that meeting, I emailed your father again and invited him to come to the event I was having at my College. (Columbus State Community College) My mentor and I were going to talk about our work in the community, as well his Art and how he has been documenting my life through paintings. Not only did he paint me, but he also painted pictures of Officer Kalous and Sergeant Ayres. I asked if he could bring you and the rest of your family. He told me that he would come, and that he put put aside a parent-teacher conference, So I know he really wanted to come.

The day of the event I remember walking around the lobby talking to people and welcoming them. That’s when me and you first met each other. I remember seeing your Father and shaking his hand and seeing your mother, shaking her hand as well. After that, that’s when you I shook hands. When I shook your hand, you looked me dead in the face and smiled…

You have the slightest idea what it was that you did. You did the same thing your Father did, you made me realize how much of a hypocrite I was.

For a second I had thought’s such as will you be afraid to shake my hand because I’m a Black Man? Will I make you uncomfortable with my presence? But just like your Father you caught me off guard. I recognized instantly that as much as I thought I was prepared to change the world and connect people…I still have barriers to overcome myself. As a grown man, I couldn’t shake your hand without thinking of all types of things that will divide us.

Afterwards, I watched you and your family walk right over to the interactive art piece me and my mentor worked together on.

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The Art piece is from his Art show called Tears of a King. The table had tear shaped cut out pieces of paper that were to be dropped into the bottle. On the paper we had everyone write about something that made them cry or hurt them that they wanted to let go. I don’t know exactly what you put inside the bottle, but I was inspired just watching you do it.

After interacting with you, I realized I should never be fearful of trying to make things better for everyone. Also, before I try to do that, I need to make sure I’m ready. I don’t have a son nor am I an Police Officer, but I can imagine having a police officer as a father, your life and my sons life is going to be very different from one another. I have no issues with lives being different, but I do have an issue with us as grown men having fear of each other.

There happens to be very little room for someone such as me and your Father to be friends or work together. We are lucky enough to have crossed paths, and as much as we have accomplished we both have much more work to do to bring everyone else to the table.

Me as a young Black Male, and your father as a White Police Officer are on a mission together…to make sure you and my son don’t fear each other. I want to make a better world for young black boys and men, and I will stop at nothing to make that happen. I also want to make a better world for you. I assume one day you may want to be an Police Officer. If so, I want to live in a world where my son can walk down the street in the neighborhood you patrol ad you both can simply just wave to each other. That’s it. I hope that one day I can bring my son to you so he can look you in the eye just like you did me, and shake your hand.

Ill be waiting on that day, but until then I have lot of work to do and you are one of my main inspirations…

Thank you.

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