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The NAACP’s Wilson branch is continuing its public policy events focused on the impact of incarceration on communities, families and children. On Thursday, the group will host a free, 6:30 p.m. discussion exploring “Juvenile Injustice — Avoiding Pathways to Prison” at Wilson Community College’s Frank L. Eagles Community Business Center.
Organizers encourage community groups, churches, families, businesses and others to attend to gain more insight on understanding how “school-to-prison pipelines” work, what can be done to support youth to help them avoid the pitfalls of incarceration as well as the impact it has on communities and families.
“We really want all facets of the community to attend,” said Carol White, Wilson’s NAACP education committee chairwoman and a retired educator. “We really want parents there, too.”
Guest speakers include retired Brig. Gen. J.R. Gorham, who was the first African American brigadier general for the N.C. National Guard. Gorham, an award-winning author of “Sharecropper’s Wisdom: Growing Today’s Leaders the Old-Fashioned Way,” is also a motivational speaker. Gorham will focus on overcoming obstacles and hardships, White said.
Erika Wilson, associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also a featured speaker, will take a deep dive into the much larger issue of juvenile justice. Wilson is the Thomas Willis Lambeth distinguished chair in Public Policy at the UNC-Chapel Hill law school. Her research and teaching interests include clinical legal education, education law and policy, specifically obtaining educational equality for disadvantaged students, and the intersection between race and the law. She teaches critical race theory and education law and serves as the director for UNC clinical programs.
Several community vendors will also be in attendance, including The SPOT, Gentlemen’s Agreement, Dee’s House, Wilson Community College’s IMAGE, the Wilson Police Athletic League, also known as PAL, and several others.
“This time, we are focusing on community vendors who support our students in preventative programs,” White said.
Sallie B. Howard School of the Arts and Education’s gospel choir will also perform.
White encourages other professionals to attend including crisis teams, school teachers, counselors and mental health professionals.
“They all have influence on these children in choosing their pathway,” White said.
Parents will also learn how they can prevent their child from ending up in the system through various programs and learn what to do if their child needs help navigating the system.
“The parent is the first teacher,” White said. “The parent has more impact and influence on the child.”
This summer, Wilson’s NAACP received a $30,000 national grant aimed to provide research, education and advocacy around the need to reduce incarceration rates in Wilson County. And part of that includes juvenile justice reform.
The group will present statistics on Wilson County’s juveniles and compare that data to neighboring counties.