The Pioneer

CSU System takes on #justice4josiah

CSU+East+Bay+students+gather+with+photographs%2C+signs%2C+t-shirts+and+other+memorobilia+to+honor+David+Josiah+Lawson.
CSU East Bay students gather with photographs, signs, t-shirts and other memorobilia to honor David Josiah Lawson.

CSU East Bay students gather with photographs, signs, t-shirts and other memorobilia to honor David Josiah Lawson.

PHOTO BY ODALIS DE LA O CORTEZ/STUDENTS FOR QUALITY EDUCATION

PHOTO BY ODALIS DE LA O CORTEZ/STUDENTS FOR QUALITY EDUCATION

CSU East Bay students gather with photographs, signs, t-shirts and other memorobilia to honor David Josiah Lawson.

By Erika Martinez, STAFF WRITER

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Unrest is felt throughout California State University campuses one year after the killing of 19-year-old David Josiah Lawson, a black student from Humboldt State University.
On April 15, 2017, Josiah was stabbed to death at a local house party in Arcata, Calif. after he and his friends were accused of stealing a cell phone.
The accusation resulted in an altercation that got Lawson pepper sprayed and then stabbed, according to witnesses.
Many witnesses testified that Arcata Police prioritized their focus on crowd control rather than the aid of Lawson, who was left bleeding on the ground and by the time paramedics arrived, he was dead.
Kyle Zoellner, an Arcata resident who was the prime suspect for the murder, was held by authorities but was soon released on May 5, 2017, due to lack of physical evidence.
Starting Oct. 15, the Students for Quality Education chapters on 21 out of the 23 CSU campuses arranged a commemoration for Josiah to raise awareness and instill pressure for the case to reach the Department of Justice.
“Our main focus is to make the CSU more accessible, affordable and of quality education,” said CSUEB’s SQE leader, Odalis De La O Cortez. “The killing of Josiah proves that there is still a much-needed improvement of accessibility for students of color in the CSU system.”
Charmaine Lawson, Josiah’s mother, has taken the initiative to claim justice for her son since his death. She has used social media as a platform to reveal her son’s story, organized rallies and vigils, and protested outside CSU Chancellor Timothy White’s office.
SQE has regional meetings where the leaders of each chapter come together to present ideas and discuss future plans. Josiah’s story was brought up and became SQE’s statewide week of action, a time to persistently act on this case to bring change.
SQE advocates that Josiah could have lived if the police would have prioritized their efforts on him rather than the crowd.
As of July 2017, the majority of Humboldt County’s population is 83.5 percent white, while only 1.4 percent is black. Humboldt County is known for its cannabis industry and hippie culture, and many residents have not been exposed to the diversities of other cultures, according to the U.S. Census.
Humboldt State University’s ethnic demographics as of 2016 has consisted of 43.7 percent white, 33.7 percent Latino or Hispanic, 6.7 percent identifying as multiracial, 3.28 percent Asian and 3.19 percent African American or Black.
Charmaine Lawson has also been advocating for the creation of a safer environment for Black students and other students of color in the CSU system so incidents like her son’s do not repeat themselves. “Bringing awareness that there is a lack of understanding and a lack of importance that [school police] focus on,” said Cortez in regard to the criminal justice system.
On Oct. 15, the SQE chapter on campus held a workshop outside the P.O.D. Market to inform students about Josiah’s story.
“We had over 50 shirts our first day to give out and do spray painting on and all of those went super fast,” said Cortez.
They gave away free t-shirts for students to personalize with the hashtag “#justice4josiah” and made posters for students to send a message to the Lawson family.
On Tuesday, Oct. 16, SQE organized a moment of silence in the quad at CSUEB. Many students participated and sang along with SQE to honor Josiah and what Josiah’s mother is doing.
“Most of our students had no idea [about Josiah’s death],” said Cortez. SQE’s week of action kept his story alive and reached out to many.
Justice for Josiah is still yet to be seen. The case remains unsolved and no evidence of Lawson stealing a phone was ever found.

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CSU System takes on #justice4josiah