WSSU continues push to free Ronnie Long

Dozens of students from Winston-Salem State University gathered at Dellabrook Presbyterian Church to plan their next step in the fight to free Ronnie Long.

WSSU continues push to free Ronnie Long
February 21
00:00 2019

There were few empty seats in the sanctuary of Dellabrook Presbyterian Church last week as students from Winston-Salem State University and other supporters continued their push to  “Free Ronnie Long” during a rally on Tuesday, Feb. 12.  

In the Thursday, Jan. 31 edition of The Chronicle, we reported that students from the HBCU (Historic Black Colleges and Universities) and Dr. Larry Little joined the fight to free a man who has spent the last 43 years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

During the rally last week, Dr. Little and others supporting the movement met to discuss their next move. 

Little, a tenured professor at WSSU, told students that if they are truly committed to the fight for justice, they can help bring Long home. To help bolster the movement, Little also enlisted the help of local pastor and community activist, Dr. Carlton A.G. Eversley, who echoed Little’s sentiments when he spoke to the students.

In 1976, Long was convicted of burglary and rape during an alleged attack on a wealthy white woman in her home in Concord. The victim, the widow of a top-executive at Cannon Mills, a textile mill in Kannapolis, told officers she was in her kitchen on April 25, 1976, around 9:30 p.m. when she felt someone grab her from behind. On the day of the trial, despite having no evidence connecting him to the crime scene and having an alibi, Long was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Over the past 43 years, Long has maintained his innocence and during that time, more information has come to light to support his claim that he wasn’t given a fair trial.

Now with his case being handled by the Duke Wrongful Conviction Clinic, Long has yet another shot at freedom. Next month Long’s case will be heard in the Fourth District Court.

Chair of WSSU’s social sciences department, Dr. Denise Nation, who has worked with Long’s case since 2014, said when she first came across Long’s court documents, she was positive that he didn’t commit the crime. Nation said after reaching out to Long’s wife, Asleigh, she immediately started spreading the word about the injustice Long has been facing for nearly half a century. For her work trying to prove Long’s innocence, Nation recently received an award from the N.C. Criminal Justice Association. 

“… This is beyond a travesty of injustice. Because let’s just say even if he was guilty, why is he still in prison?” asked Nation. “The whole point of this movement is that we want the governor to know, we want the attorney general to know that we’re not voting for them again if they carry on like this.

“… We’re not asking for another trial, we just want him to be released and compensated for 43 years they have taken from his life.” 

Associate professor and program coordinator of justice studies, Dr. Jack Monell, encouraged students to bring passion and vigor to the movement. He said, “All I ask is that you bring the same enthusiasm to this movement that you bring to everything you do in life.”

Monell continued, “Movements historically throughout our country have been by college students from the sixties up to now. We need you guys; you’re our new sixties. I don’t care what your major is, just bring your heart and bring your passion.”

During the rally, organizers discussed a march on the Attorney General’s office next month. Little encouraged students to reach out to other HBCUs across North Carolina and tell them about Long and their plan to hold a rally and march in the state capital. Organizers also discussed taking a bus to Richmond, Virginia, on March 20 when Long’s case will be heard in the Fourth District Court. 

WSSU Student Government Association (SGA) President William Gibson said at times like this, it is important that HBCUs come together as one collective voice. 

“… I want to help be a part of the history that is going to be made by us working together to free Ronnie Long. I’m sending a clarion call to every HBCU in the area so that we can stand together,” continued Gibson. “This could have happened to any of us. We could be in the shoes of Ronnie Long. It could’ve happened to every African-American male in here.

“… This isn’t a movement that is going to happen over night, but we have to fight.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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