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Beck Center holds racial justice town hall after deaths of three teens due to gun violence

The Beck Cultural Exchange Center acknowledged the recent deaths due to gun violence at its regular racial justice town hall event Friday night.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Beck Cultural Exchange Center held its regular racial justice town hall Friday night after three teens died in three weeks due to gun violence in East Knoxville.

The center keeps obituaries of members of the Black community who died in Knoxville. It has also been holding monthly discussions on racial justice since June 2020.

"The deaths of our babies, our young, bright and talented young people is heartbreaking," said Renee Kesler, the president of the center.

Friday night's discussion also focused on COVID-19's impact on the Black community. Dr. Keith Gray at the University of Tennessee Medical Center said that the coronavirus's impact has been different in Knoxville compared to other cities.

"We haven't seen those same disparities in our community," he said. "When you look on the Knox County Health Department website and look at the new cases of COVID-19 in our community, they are not disproportionate based on race."

Gray said that the hospitalization rate is slightly higher in the Black community, but is not disproportionate like the rest of the country. He also said that the death rate is lower in Knoxville.