RALEIGH – NC Chief Justice Cheri Beasley joined nearly 500 attendees at a Virtual Juneteenth Celebration hosted by Organizing Together North Carolina. The top tier panel of prominent Black women also included Superior Court Judge Lora Cubbage and District Court Judge Ashleigh Parker Dunston.
The event was just one of several Juneteenth Celebrations across the state to commemorate the effective end of chattel slavery in the United States. Governor Cooper’s Chief of Staff, Kristi Jones, moderated the conversation about recommitting to the work of justice as hundreds of North Carolinians shared book recommendations, action steps and celebratory exchange in the chat box.
Last week, as demonstrations unfolded following the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, the Chief Justice weighed in with her own declaration on race in the United States, garnering national attention. “In our courts, African-Americans are more harshly treated, more severely punished and more likely to be presumed guilty,” Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said, standing in her Raleigh, N.C., courtroom.
During the Juneteenth celebration, Chief Justice Beasley spoke to the significance of having diversity on the court, noting North Carolina’s Supreme Court is the most diverse in the entire United States. “It’s my responsibility to lead a different type of court system and have conversations about how we move forward.”
Questions about reforming the criminal justice system and eliminating systemic inequities dominated much of the conversation as Kristi Jones asked the panelists what role judges played in today’s society where policing and incarceration has particularly hit African Americans the hardest.
“Not everyone needs to go to jail, not everyone needs probation, and not everyone needs a fine,” said Judge Dunston. “As a judge it’s our job to take the time and figure out how you can help people not end back up in court.”
Jones made mention of Governor Roy Cooper’s recently formed North Carolina Task Forcefor Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which will recommend solutions to stop discriminatory law enforcement and criminal justice practices and hold public safety officers accountable.
Attendees frequently described the historic conversation among the special guests as “moving” and spoken with “powerful words” as the judges spoke anecdotally
about racial and gender inequity in North Carolina and around the country.
“Women are solutions oriented and results driven.” stated Judge Lora Cubbage of Guilford County. Cubbage briefly spoke to the intersection of discrimination Black women face in the justice system. “The importance of women getting into the political system is critical, especially for Black women.”
The Juneteenth celebration was just one of several events hosted by the statewide organizing campaign in the past several months. Next week, Organizing Together North Carolina is slated to have a conversation about Faith and Politicswith Rep. G.K. Butterield, among others.
Organizing Together North Carolina is a community-based and volunteer-driven organizing campaign designed to get progressive infrastructure running earlier than ever before. The anti-Trump groupkicked off a rigorous statewide voter registration effort this summer using the latest voter registration technology that allows eligible voters to request a voter application form by mail or register online at the new NC DMV website.
You can sign up to get involved at https://northcarolina.organizing2020.com/
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