Memphians packed a church on the city’s north side Monday in response to a weekend Black Lives Matter protest to talk with city officials about how to improve race relations and reduce violence in a community where most residents are people of color.

But even though youth programs and community centers were a point of discussion, schools were largely left out of the conversation.

Protest organizer Devante Hill read a list of demands from protesters, including increasing funding for youth empowerment initiatives.

Mayor Jim Strickland cited progress in creating reading programs to address summer slide, but activist Kia Moore said it wasn’t enough. Part of a panel of community leaders guiding the discussion, Moore encouraged the city to increase funding for youth programs in areas such as Frayser, Raleigh and north Memphis.

“Those community centers (in north Memphis) don’t have the aquatic programs that (Strickland) mentioned, those community centers don’t have the literacy programs that he mentioned, and those community centers don’t have the computer labs and wireless internet access that children need,” Moore said.

The 90-minute meeting, held at a campus of Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith, centered primarily on safety and policing issues in the wake of recent police killings of black people in Louisiana and Minnesota and police officers in Dallas. The killings led hundreds of angry protesters in Memphis to occupy a key bridge over the Mississippi River Sunday evening and block traffic both ways on Interstate 40 for hours.

Hundreds of Memphians gather at the Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith on the city's north side for a community dialogue in response to a Black Lives Matter protest the previous evening.
PHOTO: Katie Kull
Hundreds of Memphians gather at the Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith on the city’s north side for a community dialogue in response to a weekend Black Lives Matter protest.