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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Annual Youth And Law Forum To Take Place Oct. 9

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

How important is it for young Black people to learn and know how the law works? Today’s environment has shown that for young Black people interactions with law enforcement can be a traumatic experience and the Black legal community and the church community are doing what they can to provide young Black people with knowledge and tools to navigate this volatile relationship.

Margaret Spearmon, a retired advisor on the faculty in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington and an associate minister at First AME Church in Seattle, and one of the organizers of the Youth and Law Forum believes that this connection is important for young people to learn to navigate the justice system.

“This is very important,” says Spearmon. “And, the reason why is to get a lot of young people to connect with representatives from the juvenile justice systems, lawyers, judges, police and become comfortable with that interaction. It’s an orientation on how to navigate your way through the justice system.”

The Youth and Law Forum is in its 31st year providing seminars, guest speakers and events that help shape a better understanding on how the law works and the opportunities the legal arena offers in the form of careers to parents and young people within the Black community.

Founded by Judge Charles V. Johnson, Judge Norma Smith Huggins (ret.), and Judge LeRoy McCullough, the Youth and Law Forum is a free community legal education for middle to high school age youth and their parents/guardians. Workshops on legal rights and responsibilities, legal careers, prevention strategies, engagement with law enforcement, and civic engagement will be offered. By the end of the session, participants will know more about their power and ability to make a difference in the justice system.

“This forum is significant for young people to be absolutely confident in their legal rights,” says King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough. “And as well in their (young people) responsibility as it pertains to the law and justice system.”

“It is also important for young people to know the law enforcement people,” McCullough continues. “It is important for law enforcement to know that all young Black people are not what the tv or media portray them to be so that is one of our objectives is to break down the misinformation barriers.”

The event is free to all participants and made possible through the generous donations of community members and sponsors.

The forum will consist of seminars for both children and their parents or guardians. It will include on stage youth performance by Acts On Stage’s reenactment of the play 12 Angry Men a play on 12 jurors, special guest Nick Brown. Nick Brown is a Partner with Pacifica Law Group LLP, where he focuses on complex civil and regulatory litigation, municipal law, public policy, and political matters. He is a former Army JAG attorney, who spent six years in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle, and served as the General Counsel and principal legal advisor to Washington Governor Jay Inslee from 2013-17.

Another aspect to this forum is to provide information and give young people a view of career opportunities within the legal field. There are opportunities to become attorneys, judges and that there are careers like social work, investigative and judicial administration careers that are invaluable in the whole of the justice process that young people can strive for.

“Understand that not every will be a lawyer, not everyone will stand in court and yell objections but there are a number of investigator careers, court reporter careers, litigation specialist and so on,” says McCullough. “And so we want to make sure that the young people know about these types of careers and that there are some Black folks that are doing it.”

The Forum’s goals are both prevention and to promote healthy behavior in our community’s young people.

According to Spearmon, “our goal is to work with young people to give them the necessary skills and experience to promote healthy youth behavior and prevention.”

“So, we have to provide them with opportunities skills connect them with caring adults that support them provide incentives and rewards for demonstrating healthy behavior, but it takes a village, a community to provide a comprehensive approach towards our young people,” Spearmon continues.

Noe Merfelt, a King County Prosecutor for the General Crime Unit, who got involved with the forum as a law student found the forum’s significances in the ideology of community coming together to discuss the legal issues that plague the Black community.

“In a time where there is a disconnect within the community and law enforcement this is one of the few opportunities where we can come together as community,” says Merfelt.  “The focus on law and social justice, the forum is a really great space for professionals and young people to come together and talk about the issues our community is facing.”

Look forward to amazing prizes, including Laptops, gift cards, a Mountain Bike, and more!

The forum will take place on Oct. 9 from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm at the Contributions to the MLK Community Center, 3201 E. Republican Street, Seattle, WA 98112. T

For more information please visit www.youthandlaw.com 

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