Karim Muhammed, a friend of David Josiah Lawson, discusses safety and racism in front of Arcata City Hall during Justice for Josiah’s 18th vigil on Oct. 15, 2018. | Photo by Tony Wallin

Community still demands ‘Justice for Josiah’

Police are past their estimated time for solving the more than one-year-old crime

Police are past their estimated time for solving the more than one-year-old crime

He was smart. He had goals. He came to Humboldt to avoid the challenges of South L.A.

These words were spoken outside of Arcata City Hall by Karim Muhammed, a friend of David Josiah Lawson. Lawson was murdered on April 15 2017 and his case still remains unsolved.

Discussion on race and safety in the community were the main subjects amongst community members on Oct. 15. Tears streamed down faces as homemade posters of Lawson were hung on the walls in front of Arcata City Hall.

Muhammed met Lawson their freshman year in the dorms at HSU. He said he misses Lawson and was at his dorm everyday.

“He was one of the first people I met when I moved to Humboldt,” Muhammed said.

Muhammed said he thought Arcata was safe compared to south L.A but that isn’t his experience. How to keep moving forward he said is to bring awareness and continue to inform incoming students about Lawson’s murder.

“We need to get it solved, get new people in power, get people informed and vote,” Muhammed said.

Muhammed said the goal is to make the community safer but many people in the community are still oblivious to the death of Lawson or they just don’t care. When he learned of the roster release of the HSU’s predominantly African American student clubs to the Arcata Police Department, Muhammed said that was a big red flag. He said this shows where they stand with the situation and further proves their indifference.

“People choose what they want to believe or they just don’t want to believe,” Muhammed said.

Meg Stofvsky, a retired school psychologist, said the vigil’s are held to continue remembering Lawson as well as inform people who are new in the area. Stofvsky was representing Charmaine, Lawson’s mother, and said Charmaine has caught the interest of the California State University system about her son’s murder. She said Charmaine has been travelling to other CSU’s to talk about safety on campus and will be in Sacramento later this week.

“We need a firm insistence we are not going to continue to let this happen,” Stofvsky said.

It has been 18 months since Lawson’s murder and Stofvsky said the county seems to be sliding backwards. She said we need to continue having resilience and hope and to keep the Arcata Police Department accountable. Stofvsky said the APD recently gave a six to eight week time limit to solve the case and that limit is up.

“We hear a lot of talk about progress from the APD but we haven’t seen any,” Stofvsky said.

When Charmaine Lawson comes into town for court hearings or monthly vigils she stays at Sharon and Michael Fennell’s house. Both are HSU alumni and have been proponents seeking justice for Lawson. Sharon Fennell, was a KHSU DJ under the name Sista Soul and said she met Charmaine at the second vigil held for Lawson.

“We show up once a month. This is a beautiful thing and Charmaine knows,” Fennell said.

Fennell offered ideas to start selling “Justice for Josiah” shirts at the HSU bookstore to continue to bring awareness of his murder. She said that way Lawson would be seen more on campus and students would be reminded of what happened. A conflict Fennell has is that students come to HSU but then leave after they graduate, which keeps Humboldt from changing.

“People need to come, stay, build businesses and change the community,” Fennell said. “If not we stay 80 percent white. Boring.”

A member of the “Justice for Josiah” movement, Jill Larrabee, said actions by CSU and California Faculty Association are starting to take hold regarding safety on campuses but society needs to change. Larrabee said we need to learn, educate, heal and grow and get more people in office.

“Humboldt County has the good ol’ boys club in power,” Larrabee said.

To move forward Larrabee said white people need to converse with other white people about racism. Larrabee said racism is still a big problem here in Arcata but more and more people are coming out and acknowledging their privilege.

“When we hear white people say we can’t guarantee safety, then we are going to demand it,” Larrabee said.

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