Asheville’s Racial Justice Coalition (RJC) recently announced that they have hired Robert Thomas, Jr. to take on the role of RJC Community Liaison, a two-year position funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Collaborative Problem Solving Grant awarded to the Coalition earlier this year.
As a community activist, a native of Asheville and an African-American man, Thomas has lived through many of the experiences that the Racial Justice Coalition is seeking to improve regarding racism in law enforcement.
“Innovative methods that seek to address root issues — as opposed to criminalizing poverty — are activities that drive and inspire me. My focus and passion has been centered around local policy related to the racial disparities that plague our communities of color,” Thomas stated. “When the policies and practices around policing properly reflect a city that values racial equity, inclusion and working relationships between law enforcement and the community it serves, I will feel accomplished in my role.”
Formed in 2014 in the wake of the Ferguson unrest, Asheville’s Racial Justice Coalition “comes together in commitment to racial equity and to advocate for the rights of people of color with law enforcement through policy change, education, and relationship building.” The RJC hopes to become a national model for best practices and improved community-police relations.
In addition to YWCA, the Racial Justice Coalition includes: the ACLU of Western North Carolina, Applied Culture Group, Asheville-Buncombe Branch of the NAACP, Asheville-Buncombe Institute for Parity Achievement, Asheville City Schools Foundation, BeLoved Asheville, Building Bridges of Asheville, Carolina Jews for Justice/West, Children First/Communities in Schools, Christians for a United Community, Code for Asheville, Coming to the Table, Democracy NC, Green Opportunities,, Residents’ Council of Asheville Housing Authority, and Southerners On New Ground (SONG).