Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department held a public discussion about race at Roxbury Community College.

Sheriff Tompkins assembled a distinguished panel of speakers that included Rt. Reverend Jack Ahern of Saint Mary Parish; Andrea Cabral, Former Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security; Evandro Carvalho, State Representative for the 5th Suffolk District; Michael Curry, President of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Boston Chapter; William Gross, Superintendent-In-Chief of the Boston Police Department; Akilah Johnson, Boston Globe Journalist; Steve Koczela, President of the MassINC Polling Group; Dan Mulhern, Director of the City of Boston’s Public Safety Initiative; Tonya Platt, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney; Dan Rivera, Mayor of Lawrence; Alberto Vasallo, Jr., Founder and President of El Mundo; and Teri Williams, Chief Operating Officer and President of OneUnited Bank.

Before an audience of more than 350 people, Sheriff Tompkins opened the discussion with a brief statement about the timing and reasoning behind the topic.

“It is my hope,” said Sheriff Tompkins, “that this is just the beginning of the discussion about race that other organizations, other institutions, other citizens will pick up and continue, because it’s crucially important to achieving a greater understanding of each other that will lead to the eventual dissolution of racism. It is time for us to recognize as a nation that our differences are our strengths and more than divide and separate us, they should be enriching and uniting us as one people.”

Diving into the issue, each panelist spoke from their unique experiences about some of the effects of racism in our society and what might be done to begin mitigating it. Spanning just over two-and-a-half hours, the conversation about race was direct but cordial, and participants spoke about the need for action, even as they called for more similar discussions.

“Ask yourself ‘what do I do to advance what I think is important?,’” said Ms. Cabral. “Take responsibility for making change.”

“Tonight was very necessary,” said El Mundo President and Founder Alberto Vasallo, Jr. “We need to have uncomfortable conversations about race together as a group. It’s the only way.”