Widener’s Delaware campus marked its annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday, Jan. 10 with a panel discussion that explored how King might have responded to the 2006 Jena Six incident in Louisiana. Panelists also used the forum to encourage law students in the audience of more than 100 to use their careers to further King’s dream.
Watch the Three Videos
“Dr. King dedicated his life to moving our great nation closer to the idea of racial justice,” Associate Provost and Law Dean Linda L. Ammons said in her welcome. “His inspiring legacy continues to stand as a testimony to the conviction that no one can be free and enjoy the fruits of freedom until we all are free.”
The panelists included:
- Wadud Ahmad, former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, now practicing with Cauley, Ahmad, & Zaffarese LLC. He is a 2003 Delaware campus law alumnus.
- Robert Listenbee, chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, juvenile unit.
- J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the NAACP Philadelphia Branch and a member of the NAACP national board of directors.
Mondesire said Jena Six was the “puss sore on a national disgrace” that reflected inequalities in our justice system, but that it presented an opportunity to talk with young attorneys about the future. “Do some kind of work to bring some justice, fairness and equity to our system,” he said.
The program was organized by the campus Diversity and Accommodations Committee, chaired by Professor Robert Justin Lipkin. Lipkin said he hoped the event would help make King and his work more real to a generation of law students who grew up in the years since the civil rights leader’s assassination. Lipkin credited committee member and law student Charles Gibbs with championing the Jena Six topic and working tirelessly to assemble the panel.
The Jena Six refers to a group of six African-American teens who were arrested in connection with the beating of a white classmate in December 2006 at Jena High School in Jena, La. The incident came on the heels of a number of racially-charged incidents, including a situation where white students hung nooses from a tree known to be a white-student hangout, after an African-American student asked about sitting under it. The white students were not criminally prosecuted. The Jena six case caused a firestorm of controversy in the way the African-American teens were charged – with counts of attempted murder – and it sparked protests by those who viewed the arrests and charges as excessive and discriminatory. In response, tens of thousands of protestors marched on Jena and in demonstrations around the nation on Sept. 20.
photo 1: Panelist Wadud Ahmad, standing, speaks to the crowd while panelists, seated from left, Robert Listenbee, J. Whyatt Mondesire and law Professor Robert Justin Lipkin, listen.
photo 2: The event featured remarks by, from left, Associate Provost and Law Dean Linda L. Ammons, law Professor Robert Justin Lipkin, Robert Listenbee, J. Whyatt Mondesire, law student Charles Gibbs and Wadud Ahmad, '03.