Submitted by Rev. Sam Brown
Education Editor, The Star of Zion
Livingstone College Salisbury, NC - A beautiful, sunny, spring day was the backdrop for a much-needed conversation about reform in many components of the criminal justice system. Over 1000 attendees crowded the historic Varick Auditorium. This throng of on lookers was comprised of the Livingstone College community, local leaders, and activists from the city of Salisbury, and others from all over the country within the Equal Justice Now network. The criminal justice department of Livingstone College along the Attorney Crump’s Equal Justice Now curated two panel discussions- one focusing on bail reform, the other being centered around police reform. Both panels included community activists, academicians, legal and law enforcement professionals, and subject matter experts.
The panel discissions were moderated by Eric Kowalczyk and Bakari Sellers. Panel participants included: Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden; Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather; James Buie, retired Gaston County police chief and author of “From the Ground Up: How to Refine American Policing Now”; Gemale Black, Salisbury-Rowan NAACP president; Dr. Latarcia Barnes, chair, Livingstone College, Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology; JaPharil Jones, president of Black Lives Matter 757 (Virginia); Melanie Reid, associate dean of faculty and professor of law at Lincoln Memorial University in Knoxville, Tenn.; Rep. Joe Towns of Nashville, Tenn.; Attorney Dominique Calhoun of Houston, Texas; and Carleena Deonanan a defense attorney of Raleigh.
“Sometimes meeting in the middle is what is needed for actual progressiveness and actual change,” said Thomas Lucas with Equal Justice Now. Equal Justice Now is a social welfare organization that advocates against false arrests, wrongful convictions, and incarceration. Its goal in holding the panel at Livingstone College is to have conversations about bail and police reform.
“It’s imperative to us to make sure that people are knowledgeable about the bail system,” said Lucas. “Knowledgeable on what over policing is and how to combat it and how we can bring police departments and communities closer.” Lucas has been with the organization since it started five years ago.“As a young African American man, I always lived wanting there to be equal justice,” explained Lucas. “It’s always been in me to want to fight but with positivity, strength and nonviolence.”
Following the panel discussion Ben Crump hosted a press conference on the stage of Varick Auditorium to provide updates on the Shanquella Robinson case, emphasize the ongoing push for ‘diplomatic intervention’ by President Biden, and demanded justice for her death. Shanquella died in Cabo on Oct. 29, 2022, and details surrounding her death remain limited. “We expect nobody to sleep peacefully until we get justice for Shanquella Robinson,” said Crump. According to Mexican prosecutors, one of Robinson’s friends was the direct aggressor of her death, and an arrest warrant was issued. Crump’s team believe that person is in the U.S. and are seeking answers as to why nobody has gone to arrest them. “We have a process in place to extradite people who have come to America from Mexico, from Mexico, and from all over the world to seek a better life,” said Dawn Blagrove with Emancipate N.C. “The Livingstone College community is committed to using its influence to amplify the call for justice for Shanquella Robinson.” Commented Livingstone President Rev. Dr. Anthony Davis.