United Against Hate Week Takes on Legal System

The League of Women Voters Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville (LWVBAE) hosted an insightful United Against Hate Week film screening that featured a documentary as well as personal stories from three well known supporters on November 18th.

The event began with an introduction from the League’s own Housing Team Director, Greg Magofña. He went on to describe what United Against Hate Week is really about, which is a call for local civic action to stop the hate and implicit biases that are a dangerous threat to the safety and civility of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 

Then the documentary showing of Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem, which can be viewed here https://youtu.be/Bm2PxE0HMr4, was played. The film boldly dipped into touchy subjects such as the ongoing loop the US prison system tends to place on its black and brown citizens, both behind and beyond prison bars. 

The film was able to integrate the real life stories of people affected by our current system and the policies that betrayed them to tell an intricate tale about systemic racism. Faylita Hicks, a previously incarcerated woman,  shared a simple  example of how the system has failed so many.

“I plead ‘no contest’. I didn’t understand that ‘no contest’ is the same as guilty and that I would walk away with a misdemeanor that would affect my ability to get hired,” Hicks said in the video.

After the movie, the night shifted to the panel portion of the event where attendees were  introduced to three astounding people, including Esteem Brumfield and Shalita Williams. They shared how their interactions with the law had formed and shaped their lives. 

Williams described how the events discussed in the movie frequently brought her back to her own previous incarceration and how she struggled to leave the never ending loop that she said is our current legal system. When she was given the opportunity to educate herself, she saw that education as the only way to escape the cycle. She took that conviction with her to UC Berkeley and has since traveled across the country to give incarcerated individuals the same opportunity she was given. 

The evening wrapped up with questions from the audience that sparked conversation among the panelists. This event, and many others put on throughout United Against Hate Week, reminded us that to  stop these instances of racism and implicit bias, we must stand firm in our call to action so we may see transformative change.

–Cynthia Kamau

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