Race, Law and America: Brooklyn Top Prosecutor and Medgar Evers President Announce New Idea

February 24, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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DA Hynes’ ‘Howard Beach’ Book
Proceeds to Fund Symposium

  BROOKLYN — Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and Medgar Evers College President William L. Pollard unveiled a proclamation on Friday agreeing to establish an annual symposium focusing on racial issues and the law, and their impact on American society.

They were joined by political and community leaders, pastors and members of the community in announcing the annual event which will take place every February coinciding with Black History Month.

The symposium will take place every year at Medgar Evers College in Bedford-Stuyvesant and include a series of discussions designed to educate the community, focusing on the connection between race and emerging trends or public policies in the areas of criminal and social justice, civil rights, diversity in the legal profession and law enforcement and education.

District Attorney Hynes said, “I believe it is important to educate the community concerning issues such as race and discrimination and their impact on law and society. And it is important to reach people at an early age to steer them in the right direction. We have come a long way in the fight against discrimination but it still exists in our society. One of the goals of the symposiums is educating the community, especially our youth about their history and civic responsibility, and how to use the court system to bring about change. It will enable them to not only better themselves but to also make a positive impact on society.”

Medgar Evers President William L. Pollard said, “I’m excited that we will be able to provide our students and the public with a forum for critical discussions on the intersection of history, discrimination, the law, and social justice. We want to foster people’s interest in and use of the political and social tools available to them to bring about the kinds of change that will improve our communities. And by combining the wealth of experience and the resources of the District Attorney’s office with our own, we will be able to engage people in a thought-provoking and constructive way.”

The idea for the symposiums came about when participants of the DA’s Office’s Youth and Congregations in Partnership (YCP) program created a documentary titled “Slavery and the Law”, which was screened at Medgar Evers College in November 2011. The documentary shows the Brooklyn teens creating a mural while learning about the history of slavery and the different laws that were passed, first allowing slavery, then abolishing it, and how history shaped public policy. The students learned about the Underground Railroad, Jim Crow laws and the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which declared state-sponsored school segregation unconstitutional.  The documentary was funded by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

The symposiums will be an annual discussion where important issues such as racial injustice and the criminal justice system are discussed, people in the community could be educated about their history and how it shaped current society, and they could come up with solutions to solve problems that affect society today.

Featured speakers each year will include professors, lawyers, historians, public policymakers and experts in a wide variety of fields.

District Attorney Hynes is re-issuing his book “Incident at Howard Beach” which details the 1986 hate crime murder case in which three African American men were chased by a large group of teen thugs, leading to the brutal assault of one victim and the death of another. The royalties from the sales of the re-issued book will go to funding the annual symposium.


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