Social Justice and Equity
Over the last few months, our Orientation Team has made space and taken the time to find the words to express what we want you, as incoming students, to know about our commitment to social justice and equity. We offer our words of support for our black incoming students, current students, future alumni and alumni. As an Orientation Team, we seek to educate ourselves and our students on ways to be involved and support the Black community.
Our Statement of Support
Wayne State University is committed to diversity and inclusion. We've witnessed continuous racial injustice and violence against Black Americans in our country including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and a countless number of others. As an Orientation Staff, we stand with our fellow Warriors and community members in the pursuit of justice and equality for the Black community. We acknowledge that this country suffers from a deeply rooted anti-Black mentality and are working towards a more educated and very progressive future. As incoming students, you deserve to attend a University where you feel seen, welcomed, and celebrated. Our Counseling and Psychological Services Office (CAPS) has a Diversity Committee and a Social Justice Working Group that tries to make sure that everyone is always learning and are never complacent about these issues. They are very skilled and truly care about our students. We suggest contacting CAPS if to any degree you feel mentally or physically impacted by the traumatic events that are taking place. We also invite you to join our Office of Multicultural Student Engagement in a series of discussions throughout the summer in order to provide support, perspective, and education to you and all of our students.
Ways we can support
We think one of the best ways to combat systemic racism is through education, followed by action. Every Thursday, we will send out all the information available to the public about an individual who has been affected by injustice, including our sources. Then we will add all of the ways you all can help get justice for the victim and their families (signing petitions, donating, writing letters, etc.)
We also understand that these topics can be potentially heavy or triggering for many. If you are ever feeling mentally or physically impacted by the traumatic events taking place, we encourage you to reach out to Wayne State's Counseling and Psychological Services.
Additionally, The Office of Multicultural Student Engagement is hosting a virtual series called "What's Going On?". All students are welcome to attend these sessions for open conversation and education about diversity and inclusivity.
Friday, August 21 - Sandra Bland
Ms. Bland was beginning a career at her alma mater Prairie View A&M, a historically black university in southeast Texas, when she was pulled over by a police officer for a traffic violation. Bland confirmed being "very irritated" as she believed she was only moving out of the way of a state trooper vehicle. The situation escalated into threats from the officer after Bland was ordered to put out her cigarette and exit her car. The verbal attacks from the officer included him saying he would "yank you out", which he later tried to do, as well as "I will light you up". Consequently, Bland exited her car, was put in handcuffs, and placed in Waller County Jail.
Sandra Bland was placed into a housing unit for women when only 3 days later, on July 13, a guard making his rounds found her hanging from her cell with a plastic garbage bag around her neck attached to a metal hook above her body. Her death was ruled a suicide.
Trooper Brian Encinia was accused of false statements by grand jurors after claiming his reasoning for making Bland exit the car was to safely investigate the traffic stop further. From there, the charge was dismissed on the promise that he would never work in law enforcement again.
As of May 2019, Sandra Bland's family is calling for a re-opening on the investigation of her death after the released 39 seconds of video footage showing proof of the altercation as well as the trooper's threats to Bland during the traffic stop.
Sandra Bland, after 5 years, still has not been served justice. Here are ways you can change that:
Friday, August 14 - Pervis Payne
Pervis Payne is a Tennessee man that has spent his last 32 years on death row. One June afternoon in 1987, while waiting for his girlfriend to return to her apartment, Pervis Payne discovered that his girlfriend's neighbor and neighbor's children were brutally attacked. Shocked and panicked, Payne attempted to help them, but these attempts were futile. As police began to arrive at the scene, Payne feared that, as a black man, he would be mistaken as the murderer, and he fled from the scene. Just as predicted, he was arrested later that day and convicted of murder, eventually sentenced to death.
Despite having no prior criminal record nor a motive to commit such a crime, Pervis Payne is set to be executed on December 3, 2020. However, there are many inconsistencies in this case that lead many to believe he is an innocent man. The prosecution's motive and timeline for the crime do not line up with the crime scene. The Shelby County District Attorney's Office is refusing to test newly found DNA from the crime scene that could very well prove Payne's innocence. Additionally, Payne lives with an intellectual disability, making it unjust to put him on death row.
The prosecution convinced the jury of a guilty verdict by pushing harmful racial stereotypes of black men onto Pervis Payne, such as aggression. The prosecution unlawfully used Payne's intellectual disability against him, restricting his ability to participate in his defense.
If you want to help seek justice for Pervis Payne, there are a few things you can do:
- Share his story on social media
- Write him a letter to let him know you are fighting for him, and sign his petition
- Sign the Justice for Pervis Payne petition
SOURCE: The Innocence Project
Thursday, August 6 - Priscilla Slater
Priscilla Slater was a 38-year-old black woman from Harper Woods, Michigan. Her family members described her as kind, vibrant, and the life of the party. Slater passed away in police custody on June 10th, 2020, less than 12 hours after her arrest.
In the early hours of June 10th, police officers were called to the Park Crest Hotel to respond to a disturbance. Slater was found sleeping in a vehicle with a 27-year-old man. Witnesses claimed the 27-year-old man fired shots in the area. Slater and the man were arrested and taken into police custody.
When police officers went to check on Slater in her cell to give her lunch, she was found unresponsive. Medics attempted to revive her, but unfortunately she was pronounced dead at 12:45 pm.
The public and Slater's family still have no information on the cause of Slater's death. The toxicology report has yet to be released and it has been over a month since Slater's death. Five public safety personnel that were on duty at the time of Slater's death were placed on administrative leave. Slater's family has been left confused, hurt, and without answers. They are looking to the public to help seek answers and justice for Priscilla Slater's death.
If you want to help seek justice for Priscilla Slater, there are a few things you can do.
1. Sign the following petitions
Demand a fair and transparent investigation for the death of Priscilla Slater
2. Contact the following people and demand a fair and transparent investigation for the death of Priscilla Slater:
- Harper Woods Police and Public Safety Department: 313-343-2530 or email email@example.com
- Harper Woods Mayor and City Council Member Kenneth Poynter: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy: 313-224-5777
- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel: 517-373-8230
- Michigan State Police: 517-332-2521