Students ask: What’s next step?

Wake Forest law students listen closely during a forum hosted by the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) on the recent events of police brutality and the shooting in Charlotte.

Students ask: What’s next step?
October 06
06:30 2016

Photo by Tevin Stinson



“How do we break down these barriers?”

That was the question a Wake Forest University (WFU) law student raised during a open panel discussion centered around the struggle between the African-American community and police on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

While wearing a shirt that read “Black Lawyers Matter,” Charlotte native Tracea Rice asked the diverse panel of educators and a member of the local police department for specific steps to heal relations between the community and police in her hometown, and hundreds of others across the country that have seen black men die in the hands of law enforcement for one reason or another.

According to data compiled by The Washington Post in 2015, police killed nearly twice as many whites as blacks. The Post’s data also shows that unarmed black men are more likely to die by the gun of a cop than an unarmed white man.

Ronald Neal, assistant professor in the department of religion, said in order to create a more just society, individuals must continue to demand justice from elected officials and other institutions of power.

“The question is, what kind of society do you want to live in? Do we want to live in a just society, a free society? If so, we have to put pressure on the mayors, governors and the police chiefs,” said Neal. “If we don’t hold them accountable, they will continue to get away with this.”

He continued, “The fight for freedom is something that has to be ongoing. It’s a struggle that never ends.”

Derek Hicks, a professor in the School of Divinity, told the room filled with more than 100 future lawyers and undergraduate students that it is also equally important to be proactive and not reactive. Hicks encouraged students to get involved with local organizations that shine a light on the issues that plague our community.

“We have to engage during those quiet times,” said Hicks. “We have to work with the community to help litigate some of these issues.”

WFU Law Professor Shannon Gilreath encouraged the students to exercise their right to vote. He told the students, everything is political. “Vote, vote, vote,” Gilreath said.

“Politics plays a very important role. You have to make your vote count.”

Sociology professor Hana Brown, law professor Ronald Wright, and Assistant Police Chief Catrina Thompson participated in the forum as well.

A number of students didn’t waste any time answering Hicks’ call to be proactive. After the forum, a dozen members of Wake’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) met to lay out a plan to help local police build a better relationship with the community, and bring more awareness to campus about the issues plaguing communities across the country.

BLSA social justice chair Dominique Caldwell said the students are ready to show the campus and people in the community that they have something to say. Caldwell, who set arrangements for the forum in less than a week, said she was surprised by the turnout.

“See how many people came and seeing how many people are really interested in what’s going on was very encouraging to me,” she continued. “I’m very very excited about how it turned out, and I’m equally excited to see the impact we can make on the campus and on this community.”

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Wali Pitt

Wali Pitt

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