It’s Past Time To Protect Our Own!
Author, Charlie A. Cummings Sr. - TheyFearTruth Federal Government of America
When will Black America have enough of being disrespected, neglected, and abused? It is past time to protect our own! Stand against any form of abuse toward Black Americans. Abuse can be civil, political, judicial, economic, or otherwise.
On Wednesday, December 16, 2022, mainstream news and social media outlets reported Leilla Hamoud, a student of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), was forcibly arrested and handcuffed by campus police, removed from class, then subsequently processed and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct at the local detention center. WSSU is a Historically Black University (HBCU). In a report by WFMY News 2, the WSSU campus police report stated, Hamoud was "arguing with her professor about an assignment," and she was asked to leave by Villagomez. Cynthia Villagomez is Leilla Hamoud’s professor.
In a letter addressed to the students regarding the incident, Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson, Ph.D., said,
“The university has a process we must follow when there is a reported disturbance anywhere on campus. We received a report about a significant commotion in Carolina Hall this morning. As such, a WSSU employee nearby called for the assistance of law enforcement after they tried to de-escalate the situation. Per law enforcement procedures, our Officer’s priority is to assess the situation and provide every opportunity for a positive resolution. As problems escalate, their responsibility is to ensure the safety of the students, faculty, and staff members that are present. We understand that the weaponization of police is a prevalent problem in our community; however, that is not what happened in this incident. We strive for a safe, inclusive, thriving, and intellectual community where all our faculty, staff, and students feel respected and supported. To that end, we will take swift and appropriate measures against any situation that contradicts those ideals”.
According to Leilla Hamoud, Villagomez emailed her hours before her group’s project was due, suggesting she make changes to the paper before turning it in. Hamoud said, “She went to class later that day without making the changes Villagomez suggested and began discussing the project with her assigned group members”. Hamoud says Villagomez told her that turning in the assignment as is would "negatively affect her grade," adding that the altercation began there. "She starts getting loud, and she starts telling me this is her class, so it doesn’t matter what I think," Hamoud said. Hamoud continues, "I got loud back. I was raising my voice, too." After a short argument, Hamoud said Villagomez asked her to leave the classroom, but she refused. Hamoud says, Villagomez spoke to another teacher before the police intervened. "I was like, I’m not going to leave. This is our final exam”, Hamoud said. "She’s (Villagomez) upset at this point. So, she leaves to talk to another teacher in the hallway. I guess that’s when they decided to call campus police." Hamoud said a Black campus police officer arrived in the classroom to get her side of the story. A short time later, a white campus police officer entered and gave Hamoud two options: leave the class or be removed, she said. Before her arrest, Hamoud said Villagomez gave her one more chance to apologize, but she ignored it. "I didn’t start the situation." I didn’t escalate the situation. I knew I was not wrong." Hamoud said.
After reading what the police report says, do you think an argument deserves an arrest? If Hamoud needed to be escorted out of class, why in handcuffs? What did Hamoud do so egregious as to warrant handcuffs? Why did officers use personal restraint for a non-violent subject? Why did one officer allow the other officer to proceed to extract a non-violent student with handcuffs? Why did Villagomez agitate a student to the point of an argument? Why did Villagomez not grade the project as presented? Why did Villagomez demand submission in the form of an apology to avoid Hamoud being arrested in handcuffs and removed from class? Keep in mind this apology has nothing to do with the class assignment. It has everything to do with power. Why was Leilla Hamoud forced to show contrition at every level, appease others' feelings, despite her own, be broken, and apologize for a situation? According to Hamoud, she did not start or escalate the altercation. Why are campus police and administrative policy regarding student interaction designed for total submission and authoritarian rule over a student body? Do students not have rights? How can a student receive Justice in a system organized against their involvement?
Clearly, there are issues on this college campus that need to be addressed and changed. We also need to apply points of action in this article to all HBCUs. First, the authority of professors can avoid the trample of student rights. Second, student rights need to be clearly defined and protected. Third, criminalizing everyday activities such as loud or possibly boisterous conversation will not be tolerated. Fourth, criminalizing Black thought and life in general is not acceptable. Fifth, the campus police interdiction policy with students needs re-evaluation and updating to place students in non-criminal circumstances. Sixth, administrative policy regarding student/professor interdiction and all other professor-to-student and administration-to-student matters must change to include student-led input. Lastly, parents, students, administrators, alums, and boosters must address and support the rejection of non-Black employees and professors working at HBCUs.
Malcolm X has stated, “The white man is too intelligent to let someone else come and gain control of the economy of his community. But you will let anyone come in and take control of the economy of your community, control the housing, control the education, control the jobs, control the businesses, under the pre-text that you want to integrate. No, you outta your mind”. Malcolm X also says, “Just because you have colleges and universities doesn’t mean you have an education”.
We as Black America need to get more involved in the administrative structure and direct support of our supposed,(https://journals.openedition.org/qds/4044#tocto1n2) HBCUs and the community at large. The more we advocate for ourselves and not let any issue go unchallenged, the more progress toward Justice for our people. Advocating for ourselves means divorcing ourselves from the dominant society. Advocating for ourselves means Black people are supporting all things Black and amplifying our needs in all areas of this society. It’s past time to protect our own!
Specifically for Leilla Hamoud, we as a community can support this young woman. In addition to those actions mentioned in this article, we can demand charges dropped pending Leilla Hamoud’s case scheduled for Forsyth District Court in Winston-Salem, NC, on January 25, 2023. The community can advocate for Hamoud by visiting the WSSU campus police chain of command to have charges dropped. The community should pressure the administration to advise the campus police to drop charges and have the administration seek another remedy for the conflict. WSSU should give restitution to Leilla Hamoud set on her conditions. If we as a community speak up and protect our own change will happen. Then Justice is achieved. It’s past time to protect our own!