With only a minute-and-a-half to make her case to the Board of Trustees on the institutional racism she believes is present in the California State University system, Charmaine Lawson found herself speaking far past the allotted time.
Supporters of Lawson’s cause gave the grieving mother their time to allow her to complete her address, which she ended with a vow to attend every meeting until the CSUs commit to battling this racism and helping in solving the case of her son’s murder.
Lawson felt supported as she was surrounded by a group of over 30 wearing a shirt with one message — “Justice For Josiah.”
They were there to raise awareness for the safety of CSU minority students and lack of support in solving the murder of her son, Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson, whose murder has gone unsolved for 17 months.
David Josiah was stabbed to death on April 15, 2017 in Arcata, and though one arrest was made in connection to the case, the suspect, Kyle Zoellner, was released due to insufficient evidence. A new suspect has yet to be found.
Charmaine and her supporters, the Justice for Josiah Lawson Committee, met the trustees with a list of demands which included implementing policies meant to make students of color feel more accepted, hiring a more diverse faculty and asking Board Chair Adam Day to tour Humboldt State with Charmaine, to which Day accepted.
“You need to be ready for the students you recruit, and you’re not. [Being ready] means working openly with students, parents, community leaders, pastors and faculty. We need discussions about safety among us, not profiling anyone,” said James Thomas, a CSU Los Angeles lecturer. “Sustain, support and celebrate — that is the framework around which we must create space for the young black students that you are recruiting to your campus.”
Though the Justice for Josiah Lawson Committee encouraged supporters to hold their own rallies later at their respective CSU campus, there was no event of the sort at Long Beach State. However, a few LBSU students were present at the Board of Trustees meeting to show support.
“There have been a distressing number of issues raised since we have heard Chancellor White declare the campuses that make up the CSU [as] sanctuary campuses,” said Benjamin Deutsch, a LBSU graduate student and financial secretary for student worker union UAW 4123.
Deutsch talked about the 2016 deportation of 53-year-old José Alvarez deportation of 53-year-old José Alvarez, which led to the CSU’s lack of cooperation with law enforcement in immigration-related issues not required by state law, though the universities do not identify as sanctuary campuses.
“I think they heard me, but they still need to do more. I believe [in Day’s] comment. He said, ‘we hope you get the justice.’” Lawson said. “I don’t want you to hope, I want you to do something. I want you to know that this was wrong and we can’t bring him back but we can fight for him, because he was one of us.”