Audience members and the Board of Trustees fell silent during a public comments period Wednesday as Anthony Lawson played a clip of his brother deliver a speech about what it means to be a man.
“A man … takes care of the people around him and not just himself,” the voice on the recording said. “To be a man is to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery… It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world … Being a man of the 21st century isn’t about the quantity of one’s life but the quality of how you treat others in your life.”
The voice belonged to David Josiah Lawson, a Black Humboldt State University student who was killed in Arcata, California on April 15, 2017. His murder remains unresolved and his family has visited various California State University campuses to raise awareness for the safety of minority students.
Supporters of the Justice for Josiah movement, who donned the eponymous white shirts with David’s face on the front, riled behind Anthony and his mother Charmaine Lawson as they spoke to the trustees.
“Tomorrow makes 19 months and it seems like nobody gives a damn,” Anthony Lawson said. “It’s horrible the stuff that we have to go through that you don’t even see at home. It seems like no matter how big we come, how loud we shout, nobody does anything and nobody hears us.”
Before leaving the stage, Justice for Josiah supporters chanted, “David Josiah Lawson. Say his name. David Josiah Lawson.”
Humboldt State student KeyMaan Stringer’s death was also brought to the board’s attention. The 19-year-old student was swept away while fishing in Humboldt Bay North Jetty on Oct. 29. After 16 hours of traversing the bay, the United States Coast Guard suspended the search.
“We don’t have closure on his death. We as a family don’t want any other family whose child is attending the California State University system to deal with what we have been dealing with the past few weeks,” his sister, Brittany Stringer said.
Several members of the public commented on the lack of safety students and faculty of color feel, with some arguing for a safe learning environment among all California State University campuses.
Cecil Canton, associate vice president of the California Faculty Association, said major issues students of color suffer from include food insecurity, housing and bills, while having to worry about feeling safe at school. Canton cited a recent FBI report showing statistics that hate crimes increased 17 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.
“I realize it is hard for people who have never experienced being Black or brown or a young person of color to appreciate the fear and the animosity we experience at times and in places where we are a small number of the population, what is referred to as severe minority status.” Canton said. “ I know you think it’s wrong and that those threats should not exist, but they do exist.”
Board of Trustees Chair Adam Day spoke in support of the Justice for Josiah movement and thanked Charmaine for attending the past few trustee meetings.
“On behalf of the board, we continue to stand with you to seek justice for Josiah,” Day said. “And when we met with you the chancellor and I certainly learned a lot more of what’s happening both on campus as well as on the off-campus community. There’s a lot to be done and we look forward to looking for solutions with our off-campus partners as well.”