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Jacksonville Chief of Diversity and Inclusion reacts to racist mass shooting

“Now it's on all of our shoulders to do something about it. We can't just do thoughts and prayers and move on," said Dr Ahmed Parvez.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As the Jacksonville community continues to heal following a racist mass shooting, First Coast News sat down with the man chosen by Mayor Donna Deegan to help unify the city, Dr Ahmed Parvez. The Chief of Diversity and Inclusion is one of the new senior leadership positions created under the new administration, but funding for the position is facing fierce opposition.

There was an outpouring of emotional support following the racially motivated mass shooting in New Town on August 27, where three people were shot and killed.

 “Now it's on all of our shoulders to do something about it,” said Ahmed. “We can't just do thoughts and prayers and move on.”

Though the shooter acted alone, Ahmed believes the racist young man was not a lone wolf in his hateful quest.

“This is connected to a broader pattern, a broader ideological pattern and precisely why you need citywide leadership to push for reducing polarization, taking down the temperature, take down the rhetoric,” Ahmed said. “We can have differences, but we can solve them in the most civic and civil manner.”

Solving differences and bridging gaps. For more than two decades, Ahmed has been doing just that as an interfaith leader, civic leader, and as member of the city's Human Rights Commission after a fierce nomination battle put his faith at the center of an ugly debate. He's no stranger to the opposition his current position is now facing.

"Even though the community wants us to move forward somehow our politics do not,” Ahmed said. “It has not kept up with the aspirations of our community. "

On August 24, 2023, the Finance Committee voted to cut Mayor Deegan's staff salary budget by an amount equal to the salary and benefits for the Chief of Diversity and Inclusion position, the job Ahmed was chosen to occupy.

“Particularly after what happened in New Town, the racist shooting, I think sending the signal that at this moment in our city's life we do not want a Director of Diversity and Inclusion that will further Mayor Deegan's vision of creating a culture of collaboration across our differences just seems like the wrong message at the wrong time," Ahmed said.

Ahmed wrote a three page letter to the Jacksonville City Council urging them to reconsider and restore funding for the newly created position.

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