This year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day events were spearheaded by close to 300 people demanding and marching for David Josiah Lawson, a Humboldt State University student who was killed at an off campus party in 2017. It's been roughly 22 months since the murder and the case is still unsolved. On what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 90th birthday, Humboldt County staged a march from the courthouse to the Adorni Center to advocate for more than 'Josiah'. Issues ranged from troubles with racism, Indigenous land, undocumented immigrants, police brutality, formerly incarcerated peoples, and the importance of voting in rural communities.
Charmaine Lawson, the mother of David Josiah Lawson, spoke at the rally on Monday. She was introduced by Centro del Pueblo's Renee Saucedo, who praised Charmaine Lawson as a strong and amazing woman who mobilized and lead a movement in Humboldt County.
"We need leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice and in love with mankind. That is what we need today," Charmaine Lawson said. "I stand here today still waiting for justice to be served. I'm still waiting and I'm not going anywhere."
She then stated she was dismayed by the lack of motivation to make an arrest and prosecute her son's murderer, by the failure of the judicial system, and by District Attorney Maggie Fleming allowing her son's murderer to walk the streets.
"The system has shown hate, bias and racism against my son. Deep racism has stemmed here in Humboldt County for decades. There’s a systemic and institutionalized racism embedded here," she said. "There's a double standard as it relates to black, brown, and indigenous people. Our lives are not valued, but I stand here today to let you know that our lives matter. It matters."
At the end of her speech she quoted an iconic phrase used by Martin Luther King Jr. : Justice delayed is justice denied.
Among other notable speakers was 11 year old Sadie Shelmire, a 6th grader in Humboldt County who recalls racism as far back as kindergraten.
"I had to deal with a lot of racial comments from a lot of students. Students would call me the 'n' word or students would make comments such as 'your skin looks like poop, you'd look better if you had white skin," Sadie said and added that these comments made her uncomfortable, sad, angry and frustrated. "Even today I sometimes don't want to go to school for the fear of people calling me those things again."
But Sadie learned a clever way to combat rude and hurtful comments, with her mother's guidance.
"Everyone is beautiful and the one above hears everything that you say, so you better hope Jesus forgives you," she said as the crowd cheered enthusiastically. Sadie then went on to talk about how her black is beautiful, despite not looking like everyone else.
"Before you can love yourself, you have to know about your culture. You have to know where you come from. What I'm trying to say is how you feel about yourself should come from within and not from the outside which is a quote from my mom," Sadie said.
After the speeches, the group marched with several banners, guitar players, signs and shirts that read "Justice for Josiah" under an outlined drawing of David Josiah Lawson. Their destination was the Adorni Center to honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and the future of Black Excellence.