Yesterday morning at 8:30 a.m the Arcata Chamber of Commerce hosted an event about the state of the city.
A representative from Senator Mike McGuire’s office, Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, Humboldt County Supervisor Mike Wilson and Arcata Mayor Sofia Pereira, each gave a 10-minute presentation on the state of the city (Arcata).
The state of the city presentation was not inclusive of the different groups who occupy Arcata currently, which was super problematic for the name of the event.
Zero Waste. Weed zoning. Water. Straw-less February. Affordable housing. Florida. Equity Arcata.
The next thing I knew, the presentation was over and it was time for questions. No one mentioned Josiah Lawson. The last time I checked, Arcata had an unsolved murder of a HSU student that will mark one year in two months. This has had a tremendous emotional impact on students of color at HSU as well as the larger community because it still remains unsolved.
So I spoke up. Justice for Josiah and Justice for Corey Clark, I said. I continued to say that students of color should not continue to be recruited into the area if local law enforcement and the criminal justice system fails to solve their murders. HSU should take that deserving hit in enrollment as well as the local economy. Yes, the business community is involved in “Equity Arcata.” If students are unhappy and enrollment is down, that means less money for their businesses. We are more than dollars and money. Our. Lives. Matter.
I am glad these conversations are happening in the community under this Equity Arcata banner with the local business owners, students and the city. This should have been happening decades ago but I do note the importance…
I sat back for months just observing because I did not want to seem like I was thwarting any efforts of institutional change and progress for HSU and the city.
However, you can’t cover up the pain with fake progress or strategically publicized meetings and language, to make it look like something substantial is being done.
The people who need to be present in these discussions are always absent. Lisa Rossbacher, HSU’s president is never present at the “student diversity meeting/working group check in.” She opts instead, to send the Black faculty representatives to report back. That is not substantial enough for the issues that HSU has internally.
But, Lisa Rossbacher could attend the state of Arcata event. Clearly her priorities do not involve students of color but the business community. Rossbacher has always been criticized for not being present and being unable to communicate effectively to students of color on HSU’s campus.
Equity Arcata does not distract from, or equate to the fact that, there is a murderer walking around and that not one, but two Black men HSU students lost their lives while attending HSU. The police and the criminal justice system in Humboldt County have yet to apprehend and convict those responsible for their murders. (Corey Clark, 2001, Josiah Lawson, 2017).
Equity Arcata has nothing to do with Josiah Lawson except the fact that after the city and HSU shut down public updates on the investigation and town hall discussions asked for by Lawson’s family, Equity Arcata began to be pushed heavily.
Josiah’s posters hang in shop windows as a bad reminder of delayed justice but there is little conversation or understanding on why little to no progress has been made since the preliminary hearings ten months ago.
Press release after press release, “update” after update, the script is the same. For months Lawson’s family wait and then they are thrown for another loop.
I left soon after I spoke at the state of Arcata event, only having to return soon after because I left my recorder in my haste to leave.
I walked right back in when the moderator was asking the city for a response to my statements.
[insert usual script here] – Karen Diemer
Sophia Pereria apologized for not bringing up Josiah Lawson. When will white folks understand their ability to just offer apologies in resposne to errors made during the positions of power they occupy equates to white privilege? We as people of color just have to accept weak apologies, ignoring of our pleas and subpar treatment in today’s post-racial society.
Again it was asked when will the city look into police response the night Josiah was stabbed, which has been a question posed to the city for 10 months now. Karen Diemer spoke of hindsight and wishing the police would have done things differently such as quarantined the scene. Who will pay for that? Josiah’s life and his mother’s pain and agony, while she waits idly for justice to be served?
This is the state of Arcata.
This is not o.k.
After the state of Arcata event, suddenly press releases were written up and sent out to the few local media networks in the area.
Even Lisa Rossbacher ended up coincidentlly in the press yesterday because the president’s office sent out a press release with Rossbacher praising herself for being appointed to lead an initiative that will increase the number of students from Tribal Nations to graduate from CSU’s.
As someone who is in Journalism, I understand the power of the press and the role it plays in shaping public perception and how institutions use them for damage control. Just how the forensic software became suddenly available after Josiah’s mother’s NAACP MLK Day speech. She had been waiting months because the police department and the city said they were waiting for this new software to become available.
Don’t just read the paper, think about what is not making it to print.
When a writer submits a piece in the field of Journalism, there are copy editors and the E-I-C who read and edit these pieces before anything is printed. Institutions like to prepare press releases and send to local media so the institution controls the narrative and avoids tough questions.
Journalism is politics and it sucks that Josiah’s murder is stuck within the realm of small town newspapers and small town politics. Yet no justice is in sight.