WMU-Cooley Law School holds panel discussion in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) hosted a virtual panel presentation entitled, “MLK Day 2021: Chaos or Community.”

The discussion featured panelists Monica Lewis-Patrick, CEO of We the People Detroit, and Victoria Burton-Harris, assistant prosecutor of Washtenaw County. During the commemoration discussion, Mama Sol, a national hip-hop and spoken word artist, originally from Flint, Michigan, performed spoken word about the meaning behind honoring King.

While introducing the panelists, BLSA President Brandon Barton said, “With the recent murders of George Floyd and Briana Taylor at the hands of the system, and coupled with the recent terrorist attacks at that occurred on our capitol, it’s very hard for me to recognize that Dr. King’s dream is being realized. In a time when coming together is the most important thing our society needs, it seems that our country cannot rise to the occasion.”

Lewis-Patrick spoke about being born into a revolutionary family and shared that her mother was the first woman of color to reach the rank of non-commissioned officer in the military.

Talking about the recent events at the U.S. Capitol, Lewis-Patrick said, “What we saw on January 6 is not the beginning of these type of anti-democratic movements, but a continuation of anti-democratic processes.”

By sharing recent examples of water being shut off to poor people in Detroit, and illegal home foreclosures, Lewis-Patrick said, “I don’t have to go back to 1965, I don’t have to go back to 1975 or 85, I can show you where in recent times we are faced with the same racist tyranny that we have faced for years.”

Speaking about the inequality of prosecution of people of color, Burton-Harris shared why she chose to become a defense attorney early on in her career.

“I was so convinced that they (prosecutors) used their power to feast on, and, really harm the lives of black and brown people in the country. That is why I wanted to be a defense attorney,” said Burton-Harris. “I wanted to protect people and use my power as a black attorney to really help folks. I never thought I would be where I am working as a prosecutor.”

While sharing accomplishments as an assistant prosecutor with Washtenaw County, Burton-Harris noted that she has been able to put policies in place that have a direct impact on individuals’ lives.
“We were the first prosecutor’s office in the state to say that we are no longer going to be seeking cash bail on people’s cases, because we know that system does not work and is just attacking poor folks and people of color.”




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