An email sent by Arcata’s City Manager Karen Diemer, details that community forums to discuss student safety and updates into the murder investigation of David Josiah Lawson, will no longer be held.
“Thank you for your participation in the meetings held to provide updates on the David Josiah Lawson investigation and to discuss student safety. Based on input received during the October meeting, instead of continuing to hold the large public meetings, the City is working with students to hold smaller meetings, on campus, focused on student safety.
Graciously we had a couple of student leaders step up to assist in the design and facilitation of an initial meeting in November just before the Thanksgiving break. This format worked very well in November and we are encouraged to continue with this format moving forward.
The students invited a group that included representatives from student clubs across campus. The group met with the Equity Arcata working group volunteers and provided support and input into each of the initiatives that have recently been started. I have attached a flyer of the working groups. Many groups are still looking for volunteers to assist. If you are interested in a particular group please reach out directly to the contact person listed. We also have two additional groups that do not have volunteer leaders at this time. One will address recruitment and retention to increase diversity in the employee base at both the City of Arcata and Humboldt State University and the second will develop a tracking, assessment, and evaluation plan to make sure we continue to make progress. If you are interested in either of these two final groups, please contact me directly.
The David Josiah Lawson investigation is active and ongoing. The City continues to work with outside investigator Tom Parker and expects his review to conclude this month. While confidentiality continues to be vital in the criminal investigation process, the City will provide any information available as an update once this outside review in concluded.”
These meetings came at the request of Lawson’s mother, after she presented the City of Arcata a petition with over 1,000 signatures in September and asked the council to put her son on their meeting agenda moving forward.
Charmaine Lawson was seeking transparency in her sons murder investigation. She also wanted the city to address concerns that students of color had regarding their safety.
The city agreed to hold separate sessions but did not put Lawson on the city’s agenda. It is quickly approaching eight months since Lawson’s stabbing death in April and no one is in custody for his murder.
There were a total of four sessions prior to Diemer’s email.
I attended the meeting Diemer mentioned in her email, that was held in Nelson Hall on HSU’s campus Nov 14.
The meeting was made possible through the collaboration of the Black Student Union and A.S Representative for the College of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Xotchil Perez. Perez currently works as the “equity intern” of Arcata where she serves as a liaison for HSU and the city.
In an email, Perez shared her thoughts on why it was important to have students and the community working groups come together.
“This forum provided an opportunity where students could hear firsthand the work that the community has initiated to make changes that respond to the racial equity and discrimination concerns they have raised, and provide a space for students to give feedback that ensures the work is focused in the right direction and on what is important to them,” Perez wrote.
If community members and local non-profit organizations are going to be working on issues which pertain to students of color, then it is necessary that they have student of color input and collaboration.
In addition, you can be a lot more effective with cohesiveness–rather than people over here and over there–working on similar issues with no collectivism.
During the Nov. 14 meeting, the only HSU administration present was interim Dean of Students Vice-President Wayne Brumefield. Although Brumefield has only been at HSU four months, he continues to play an active role in helping HSU move forward.
Some community members, BSU, a few HSU students and student representatives, two HSU faculty, as well as Diemer and two Arcata city council members were also present.
One of those city council members was Vice-Mayor Sofia Pereira, who is also a HSU alumni. After the Nov. 14 meeting, I spoke with Pereira to get her thoughts on the evening.
“If we want to address issues of racial inequity and discrimination in our community, we have to build bridges and we have to be able to have some lines of communication with each other,” Pereira said.
“I think tonight was a really good step in being able to come together to talk about the work that’s happening already that is being led by community members–that [work] has to be student-centered, it has to be driven by what people are experiencing in our community. I think this was a really good opportunity to build those bridges so that we can start making changes in our community.”
The public was not the only ones left out of the loop in regards to the city’s swift change of direction–Lawson’s mother was also uninformed. Although she does think the new format will be more effective, she wondered why no one contacted her, especially when these meetings came at her request.
With all of the conversations surrounding community working-groups, student-safety, equity workshops and training; the question of when Lawson will receive justice still remains a mystery.
In addition, the fact that the City of Arcata did not have the decency to update Lawson’s mother on the new direction, speaks volumes.