OAKLAND -- In the wake of protests that spread throughout Oakland this week in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, African-American activists challenged inaccurate perceptions in media and urged the community to work together to create the solution.

On Thursday, about 60 people attended a public forum hosted by the Maynard Institute and the Oakland Tribune, in order to voice their opinion on the Zimmerman verdict and how media images impact perception.

Audience members, made up of a variety of races, heard opening remarks from four panelists, who each touched on the main theme of media's role in shaping the perceptions of black men.

"We are giving our fellow citizens a distorted and inaccurate depiction of what it means to be a black man," said Dori Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute, which aims to improve cultural diversity in American journalism. "If our core value is to give our audience accurate and credible information they can use in their lives, we're failing them."

Maynard was one of the four panelists participating in the forum who shared statistics and facts about the result of inaccurate images of black men. Arnold Perkins, former director of Alameda County of Public Health, Malkia Cyril, founder and executive director for Media Justice, and Davon Moore, a youth mentor at The Mentoring Center, also offered their opinions on media and its impact on society.

Perkins, who grew up in Florida, recounted to community members the times he dealt with racism in his life. He talked about sitting at the back of the bus and being forced to eat at the back of restaurants, if he was even served at all.

"I think the media plays a really important role, because the media fans the flame of all the inequities I just talked about," Perkins said. "Our participation in the media is always negative and it's also a trick for us, because I, as an African person, don't see myself doing anything positive. All I'm reading about is myself doing something negative."

Other panelists agreed that media plays a role, but that it important to note whether or not society is taking responsibility for the types of narratives and debates being generated by systems.

"There are multiple institutions that work together to create an understanding of who we are as a people and as a nation," Cyril said. "It's time now for all of us to begin to reverse the trend of racial discrimination and structural racism that suggests that black people are not human."

When the floor opened up to audience members, the line quickly grew, as community members asked questions dealing with the funding model for media, as well as the next steps to take after the Zimmerman trial.

One man told the panelists that he had no doubt in his mind that Zimmerman stereotyped Trayvon Martin. However, he said he wanted to know where the community should go from this point.

Some of the panelists said the focus moving forward should be on what community members can do to create change in Oakland.

"The media cannot change our perception of ourselves as an African person," Perkins said. "We need to work within our community to change that perception and other people need to work in their communities to change the perception."

After the panel and the open question session, community members stayed around to ask panelists a few more questions, share thoughts and opinions on the media and provide their feedback to the suggestions provided by panelists.

"I think we look to too many different people too often for answers and solutions and ideas when we should be looking to each other," said Tyrese Johnson, 21. "I think that echoed today in a lot of ways."