Navigating white spaces in Humboldt County as a person of color

By Alyssa Anaya
Flapjack staff

During her first semester at HSU, Vanessa Cota, a 20-year-old political science major, had a frightening encounter at Don’s Donuts in downtown Arcata.

“A guy approached me and asked where I was from and said SoCal and kept telling me to go back where I came from,” she said. “I lost sense of what I was going to do. He threw a glass bottle at my feet.”

Cota’s story is not an isolated incident. Racism is alive and well in Humboldt County, where 77.1% of the population are white, 17.6% are Latinx, and 13.3% are black or African American. This leaves people of color to navigate white spaces, and that is a space that feels not always safe for minorities.

At last week’s Arcata City Council meeting, only a few days after the fatal stabbing of Josiah Lawson, a 19-year-old HSU student and leader of Brothers United, racism in the county was brought up for discussion.

“We cannot continue to ignore the systemic and cultural racism that exists in our community,” said Arcata’s vice-mayor Sofia Pereira. “While we can say we’ve been working on issues of equity in our community, we as a community failed [murder victim] Josiah [Lawson] and other students of color, who have stated over and over that they do not feel safe and welcomed here.”

HSU sociology lecturer Lora Bristow defines racism as simply the systematic oppression of a group based on “what we call” race.

“[This] advantages the dominant group (white folks in the U.S.) and disadvantages and harms other groups,” Bristow said. “ It has multiple levels–individual, ideological and cultural, and institutional, and can be overt/explicit or covert/subtle/even unconscious.”

In Arcata, a college town, racism here isn’t so avert, said 23-year-old Sociology major Danielle Dickerson.

“Arcata is a small town that is becoming more diverse and that makes some white folks uncomfortable,” Dickerson said. “It’s whether or not they are willing to accept that.”

Dickerson also brought attention to HSU’s graduation pledge and how it addresses a so called social and environmental justice.

“For who? Where do people of color lie in the discussion?” she said. “It’s bleaching. Watered down. Paradoxical.”

Dickerson said that language is very problematic.

“There needs to be a change of behavior,” she said. “White people need to be held responsible.”

As Bristow explained, racism can be both subtle and even unconscious. Cota said that she sometimes feels that her professors and colleagues come off as microaggressive.

“Sometimes I will say something and it’s kind of brushed off,” Cota said. “But when a white student says almost the same thing, everyone praises it.”

Racism is not just about minorities, it also calls attention to white folks.

“Racism is immense in its effect, in all layers of our lives.  For people of color, it creates diminished life chances, while it simultaneously increases the life chances of white folks.  Although as a system of power it seeks to dehumanize folks of color, I think it dehumanizes white folks.” said Bristow. “ How can we be good in our souls if we hate others, if we benefit from harm that is done to others and do not work to end that harm?”

Of course, there is no all ending, over night, happy ending when it comes to something as heavy as racism. However, there are ways that it can be combatted.

“There needs to be more accountability, safer spaces, and actually acknowledging gender, and race. Not leaving anyone out of decision making,” Dickerson said. “We need to redefine ally. You can’t just simply agree with the ideologies, you need to be action oriented. People are allies in theory, but they need to put that into praxis,” said Dickerson. “When you have a platform you need to use it.”

“We just had that march for science and it was full of white people. After the recent passing of Josiah [Lawson] we did not see many of these “allies.” They came to the vigils but didn’t show up to the courthouse to show support. Where are the allies?”

Cota agreed and added, “White folks need to not be so defensive. It happened, accept it. Ask what you can do to fix it. Check other white people. It is exhausting being a person of color and trying to educate white people who don’t want to listen to me.”

“At the individual level, we need to have conversations with each other–and white folks need to really listen to people of color.  White folks need to talk with other white folks, to work towards a collective anti-racist white identity,” said Bristow. “At the ideological/cultural level, we need to really examine ideas, images, beliefs–everything–and question where they come from, how they are connected with racism as a system of power.”

Racism has been a system structured at the roots of this nation and it shows at the institutional level.

“We need to see how racism may be operating in our schools, political groups, churches, workplaces, all the social institutions we interact with in our lives,” said Bristow.  “And then work for policies and practices that support racial justice. We need to do the same at the national and global level.”



Wide receiver Jamere Austin joins Jacks for ’17 season

By Skye Hopkins
Flapjack staff

The Lumberjacks newest football recruit Jamere Austin is a 22-year-old junior who traveled up here from SoCal’s San Fernando Valley this Spring Semester. He is majoring in communications at HSU and is beyond excited to play in the 2017 fall season.

“I bought a plane ticket but didn’t know which school I was going to,” Austin said. “I went to the airport and decided to come to Humboldt.”

Humboldt State was not Austin’s first choice when it came to continuing his football career but now that he is here, his positive mindset is helping him make the best of it. He started his college career at Los Angeles Pierce College where he played wide receiver. Considering a handful of the boys were from Austin’s hometown, he was excited to play with familiar faces. On another note, the coach that Austin originally spoke with before joining the Pierce Bulls left before the season even began, leaving several of the players a little confused.

“First season was bad,” Austin said. “We went three and seven.” In other words, they lost three games and won seven.

With Pierce’s reputation of getting several players to higher division football schools, Austin was only ready for the next season. He worked hard during the summer with close to “no off days.” His sophomore year, they ended up going 5 and 5.

“We were a good team,” Austin said. “But things got sad.”

He described his sophomore year as the year that changed his head with football for the better. His views and ideas around the game itself were clearer and his technique sky rocketed. During week 6 of this same year, Austin received his first offer and within a few weeks he was up to 16 Division II offers. He committed to Lindenwood University in Missouri a little after the season ended. Through second semester of sophomore year, Austin received several more offers and ended up recommitting to Southeastern Louisiana, a Division I school. However, the admissions department was on edge about fully signing him in because of a stats class that had to be completed. Unfortunately, he did not end up passing the class. He was lucky enough to get a chance the retake the class, but with no luck his spot was passed on during the annual recruiting process.

“I knew it was time to start back up,” Austin said. “So I wrote a little letter explaining my situation and posted it on social media.”

He picked up roughly ten Division II offers, and with only one week to decide he narrowed it down to Humboldt State and Midwestern State in Texas.

After spontaneously deciding to make the trip to Humboldt, Austin was on campus speaking with Head Coach Rob Smith before he knew it. However, for Austin is seemed like if it was not one thing, it was another. Humboldt’s admission office did not approve his acceptance. It took three weeks for Humboldt’s administration and coaching staff to inform Austin that he would not be able to continue his classes for the 2016 Fall Semester.

With yet another detour, Austin began to feel extremely discouraged. He was already settled in to the small town, the positive energies of HSUs campus, and the welcoming manners from his teammates and coaches. Having to start over or even take a few steps back once again was not on his agenda.

“Honestly, I started crying,” Austin said. “It just didn’t make sense. They told me I could come here, so I came. And then just like that, I had to go back home.”

Austin’s roommate, Johnathon Charles, was not too happy about his denial either. They had just moved into their two-bedroom house on P Street in Arcata. Charles could no longer look forward to playing his third college football season with his old friend Jamere Austin.

“Man was I bummed out,” Charles said. “My boy had to go all the way back home with no football in sight and I was stuck in a two-bedroom house with no Jamere.”

Through those first few discouraging weeks spent back in the San Fernando Valley, Austin altered his focus and began to work rather than practice.

“I was on a grind,” Austin said. “A money grind. But in the back of my head I still saw Humboldt.”

Austin was not ready to only work and not play. He attended the Jacks away game against Azusa Pacific in September and kept in touch with the coaches, especially the wide receiver coach Nick Williams. Ex-roommate Joc was extremely happy about seeing Austin at a 2016 season game.

With more time off and room to improve, Austin continued to work and picked up a few more offers. The same day he was offered by Division I Double A School Southern Illinois, he received a call from Humboldt State.

“When are you coming back?” Humboldt’s football staff asked.

Austin was stuck between another warming welcome from Humboldt and a Division I offer from Southern Illinois. He knew the recruiting process would be long with Illinois but he wasn’t sure if Humboldt would let him in again. He had less than a week to make a decision and after making a list of the pros and cons, Austin sent his letter of intent to Humboldt State University.

“Everything was right,” Austin said. “Not too much trouble to get into. I knew it was a small spot where I could focus and get things done.”

With over two years of ups and downs through the recruiting process, Jamere Austin was proud to announce his commitment to Humboldt State with excitement to play in the 2017 fall season.

Wide receiver coach Nick Williams was thrilled about the newest addition to their offensive team. Several Jack coaches witnessed Austin’s passion and motivation for football and did not want to miss the opportunity of having him on the team.

“We really wanted Jamere,” Coach Williams said. “We needed him to be here.”

Austin has been able to continue his football and academic career at Humboldt during the Spring Semester and will be returning with enthusiasm for the upcoming Fall Semester. He has been maintaining good grades as well as working hard in hopes of keeping his vibrant presence as a player of the Lumberjacks. He is expected to do extremely well during this upcoming season and several classmates, professors, and family members are excited to see how far he has come and what he has to bring to the table.

“Jamere brings a great energy to not just the wide receiver group, but the team as a whole,” Williams said. “He is a natural football player and his foot is always on the gas. I like that he is just so excited to be here. He physically, mentally, and emotionally puts everything into anything he does.”

‘What Now?’ Paying respect to David Josiah Lawson

By Casey Barton
Flapjack staff

In the early morning hours on April 16, 19-year-old HSU student David Josiah Lawson was fatally stabbed at a social gathering on Spear Avenue in Arcata, California. Lawson’s passing has continued to stir conversation on-campus since his memorial service.

This event not only saddens community members as a loss of young life, but as a possible case of racial hate crime. Students are concerned with their own safety and campus ideals. After a few days the community was eventually granted details to the event.

According to the Arcata Police Department’s Press Release on April 18, authorities were notified of an altercation at 3:02 am Saturday morning and responded within a minute of the initial call. When officers arrived, they found that Lawson had been stabbed multiple times and was bleeding heavily. His close friend and fellow Brother’s United member, Elijah Chandler, was performing life-saving procedures on Lawson as he moved in an out of consciousness. Authorities detained 23-year-old Mickinleyville resident Kyle Zoellner at the crime scene and proceeded to take Zoellner to the Humboldt County correctional Facility, booked under homicide. David Lawson was taken to Mad River Community Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

On May 5, after four and a half days of testimony, a judge dismissed charges against Zoellner, citing insufficient evidence to connect the suspect with the crime.

Chandler testified in court and also in interviews, describing the event in clear detail once he was able to respond to the stabbing incident. His comments point toward the possibility of Lawson’s attack as racially motivated.

“The only thing I heard – it was monstrous, in my opinion – was the two Caucasian women,” said Chandler. “Now that the police had arrived and were just making sure the assailant was going to be OK and that nobody touched him, the women were saying, ‘I really wish that nigger does die. I really hope that nigger dies.’”

The two women referenced by Chandler had apparently been connected with Zoellner during the initial altercations.

At Lawson’s memorial service held in the campus’ Kate Buchanan Room on Thursday, April 20, his family members and campus Brother’s reminded the community of Lawson’s incredibly successful life.

“Are you gonna allow racial tensions or anything like that matter? To cause you to now stop and throw your hands up and say you can’t continue on,” said Phil Griggs, David Josiah Lawson’s hometown pastor. “If you do, you’ve missed the purpose of Josiah’s life. If you do, you’ve missed the purpose of your life.”

As one who saw Lawson grow into young manhood, these words noticeably comforted the audience.

“All of us are alike ‘cause your eyes are the biggest liar in the world,” said Katauri Thompson another Brother’s United member. “Look past what you see on the outside and know what’s inside, whether it’s knowledge, power, and love. Josiah was all of that.”

“This is the hard part where we ask for the community: What now?”

Lawson will be continually memorialized in the hearts of many throughout the HSU community and especially those who he has met along the way. Even though his presence on campus was halted by this sudden event, Lawson made his time memorable and accomplished many admirable goals including his election as president of the Brother’s United club and succeeding in his Criminal Justice studies.

Many can learn from this event, not only from its unfortunateness or lesson in communal safety, but as a reminder to keep living by the positivity and respect that one would expect for themselves or say, even their own child. Lawson was known to treat others with that respect and it was a shared gift to have him as a part of the Humboldt State University community for as long as we did.

Rest in peace, David Josiah Lawson.

Students question campus safety after fatal stabbing in April

By Noel DiBenedetto
Flapjack staff

As a student of color, 19 year-old sophomore Branden Black said it’s hard for him to feel safe on campus after the recent fatal stabbing of a 19-year-old HSU student just off campus.

“We claim to a be a school of diversity and inclusion but I don’t see it,” Black said. “That could have very well been a racially motivated attack, and the fact that something like that could happen to me, that my life could end in a matter of seconds, doesn’t make me feel safe walking home every day.”

Just over two weeks ago, David Josiah Lawson was murdered April 16 at a party located close to campus. Lawson was president of Brothers United.  Charges against 23 year-old McKinleyville resident Kyle Zoellner were dismissed Friday, May 5, due to what a judge called a lack of evidence.

Now, grief stricken students are left in shock, and some are questioning whether or not they actually feel safe on their own campus.

HSU represents itself as a peaceful and earth-loving community that aims to promote diversity and inclusiveness for all of its students, which is why some may find this recent attack so hard to swallow.

Many students of color have also expressed feeling a lack of support from their institution, and feel as though they are simply treated as bodies that help boost HSU’s diversity numbers. The loss of Lawson has perpetuated these feelings.

Although the university has put effort in to reaching out to students, making sure they are provided with counseling services and emotional support, whether or not they have made changes in their security measures remains unclear.

Business student Christian Antuna, 22, said that, for the most part, he feels safe on campus during the day, but suggests that security and university police should be more active around campus at night.

“I constantly see campus security during the day, but never at night, and I think that’s a problem,” Antuna explained. “After 10, it seems like they’re dormant or something, and it can get pretty sketchy around here at night.”

While the attack happened off campus, university police has jurisdiction within a mile in all directions around HSU’s campus, which covers a lot of ground including Spear Avenue where Lawson was murdered.

Many witnesses of the attack have expressed their extreme frustration with how the police and paramedics chose to handle the situation once they actually got there, which some say took far too long in the first place.

Records show that police arrived on the scene within one minute of receiving the first 911 call. The first EMTs were on the scene within seven minutes. During that interval, several of the individuals present felt as though the police were blatantly ignoring their cries for help, and that they focused too much on keeping things under control, rather than trying to save Lawson.

While an event like this would cause anyone to feel uneasy about going out at night in their community, several students on this campus still feel as though there isn’t enough being done to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones.

Associate Dean of Students Christine Mata thinks that part of the answer lies in strengthening the ties between the community and the students, and strengthening the line of communication between the students, and the institution.

“Improving our safety means we have to create that sense of community, we have to know what our resources are, and we have to be there for each other,” Mata said. “We really need to create that sense of taking care of each other, and being there for each other. I think that’s really important, especially during a time like this.”

Student Accessibility In and Out of The Classroom – Accommodating students at HSU

By Garrett Goodnight
Flapjack staff

Traveling across the campus of Humboldt State University can often take an entire day’s worth of energy, in order to make it to class on time. Some students will often have to travel from one end of the campus, to the complete opposite end in a matter of 10 minutes.

ICat Garabay, 23, anthropology major suffered a lower body injury while she was hiking in the forest last semester.

Garabay expressed her thoughts towards the services provided on our campus.

“They’re super beneficial when getting around campus, especially when you have one class in the Behavioral and Social Sciences building and your next is in the Siemen’s Hall,” Garabay said. “The services on campus are extremely helpful especially because of the hills and stairs that make campus so difficult to navigate.”

The HSU campus has informally earned the nickname of Hills and Stairs University for the amount of stairs and hills located on the campus. Because of the campus’ terrain, its staff has prepared for any and every type of injury. HSU provided students with a wide variety of services to accommodate any injury or disability needs.

If a student happens to get injured on or off campus during the semester, there are several ways to go about handling the situation. Let’s say a student happens to get injured off campus, they have the opportunity to go to their local practitioner or doctor. After they are diagnosed they can have their paperwork sent to the Student Disability Resource Center, that way they can properly access the student’s needs.

If a student happens to get injured on campus, they have the option to call the University Police Department to receive service, or they can go to the Student health Center to receive medical attention immediately.

The Student Disability Resource Center promotes their services to any student in order to maintain student’s success at Humboldt State University. “We are a resource to the HSU campus community in its goal to facilitate accessibility and promote Universal Design in Learning,” SDRC About Us statement.

The Student Disability Resource Center has several options open that are available not only to students with new injuries, but available to any student with a pre-existing disability or injury. The school offers accessible classroom furniture, alternate media, assistive technologies, deaf and hard of hearing services, disability-related advising, equipment available for checkout, exam accommodations, LD resource specialist, note-taking services, priority-registration and registration assistance, support group, and transportation on campus from class to class.

Student Access Services Director, Kevin O’Brien elaborated on the system and how it operates.

“If a student can’t make it to class, they will get transportation services and we will communicate with the faculty to set up guidelines,” O’Brien said. “There is a nice collaborative process in place so the student isn’t running around, we really make it a point to see how these limitations will cause barriers for their academics.”

This desire to help students with their disabilities allows any student the ability to receive assistance. Suffering any type of injury during the school semester can really intervene with a student’s ability to participate in the classroom, especially if you are involved with a sport.

Sports require a lot of commitment, as students will often travel across the country to participate and represent HSU. One of the more prevalent injuries that are associated with sports is a concussion, which can often be tricky to recover from.

Humboldt State University has a specific concussion program in place that is run by Justus Ortega, from the kinesiology department. The North Coast Concussion Program was set up to help accommodate students and student athletes if they suffer a brain injury.

On top of the Student Health Center and Student Disability Resource Center working together in a collaborative process, the North Coast Concussion Program is connected to them as well.

Their system works as a network, allowing each center access to student’s reports. Their system allows them to stay up-to-date on very important situations, making sure that students have the best chance to succeed in the classroom.

Suffering a concussion during the semester could perhaps require extra accommodations that are specifically connected to the brain and how to heal properly. Some of the side effects might require students to break from class, as learning and focusing on anything of substance could potentially damage the brain, making the concussion worse.

“The accommodations are there to protect and prevent the further injury of a concussion,” said Ortega. “They are there to ensure the students success in the classroom!”

Ortega believes that Humboldt State University does a really great job at making sure student’s health comes first.