There were around 100 people who gathered yesterday at the D Street Neighborhood Center, for a film screening and discussion for the documentary Unsolved Hate, which focuses on the unsolved murder of David Josiah Lawson.
Lawson was a sophomore at Humboldt State University who suffered multiple stab wounds at an off-campus party April 2017 and passed away as a result of his injuries.
Although a suspect was arrested at the scene, the Judge ruled a lack of evidence and the suspect was released three weeks later after a preliminary hearing.
Over ten months has now passed and no new suspects or visible progress has been presented in the case–besides new forensic software becoming available to help with DNA analysis.
The documentary does a great job capturing the undertone of Humboldt County–that silent dominate culture behind the hippie/liberal utopia that Arcata and HSU has somehow maintained the narrative of the town as being. Students and people of color in Arcata however, feel unsafe, unheard and are slowly beginning to feel un-welcomed, with the silent messages that two unsolved student-murders send (Lawson, 2017, Corey Clark 2001).
Students, community members and NAACP members shared their thoughts after watching the 25-minute documentary by Courtney Wagner. Wagner and her production team traveled to Humboldt County numerous times during their final semester at Sacramento State University–attending city council meetings, protests and vigils for Lawson. They talked to students, business owners, community members and friends of Lawson to capture the story.
A Native-American woman who also serves as a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles was present and shared her thoughts during the discussion.
“There is enough information here to show that this is a possible hate crime and if the local authorities are not going to take this matter seriously, then perhaps we need to be looking at civil rights issues and putting pressure from the Federal authorities to take care of the situation. Because I think it’s serious. What I keep hearing is people don’t feel safe. There is a reason for that.”
Some inquired about what needs to be done for Federal involvement, many thanked the filmmakers and some questioned the whereabouts of HSU’s President Lisa Rossbacher.
“I would like to know what meeting is more important than the death of a student at your school. She as our representative, should be at every single thing because it is the loss of life. College is a big step and we see it as a safe zone and a place to further ourselves.”
The student also shared the pained reality of being a Black man in this country.
“As a Black man, I don’t expect any justice. From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. It is what it is, but justice for Josiah.”
The discussion then turned towards HSU’s recruitment of students of color and their absence when the students they work to recruit, are murdered in the community.
“What are we doing as a community to warn people of color who are being recruited by HSU?” A Native-American woman inquired.
2nd-President of the Eureka NAACP, Safar Ghaffari, mentioned his interest in seeing a legal fund set up to assist Lawson’s mother because the normal route has delayed justice for her son.
“I believe we have a moral obligation as a community, to seek justice for this young man,” he said.