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An Artistic Call for Justice at WSSU: #FreeKalvinNow Rally

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by Sarah Vick

By Sarah Vick

photo- cassidy miller
photo- cassidy miller

Over 150 students, activists and other members of the community turned out at Winston-Salem State University last night for a rally to revisit the questionable conviction of Kalvin Michael Smith for violently assaulting a woman in 1995. The rally, titled “A Call for Justice,” is part of the movement #FreeKalvinNow which strives to harness the attention of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in order to have Smith’s case revisited.

Artistic elements were included into the rally through live music, spoken word and chants for justice that finally culminated with a call to action.

The rally featured an opening cover of “Be Free” by J Cole performed by local band,  L.I.T. City followed by a welcome from WSSU student Asia Dukes. Dukes recognized the community groups and elected officials in attendance as well as Concerned Students, a group of local college students working together on the #FreeKalvinNow campaign. Bishop Todd Fulton of the Mininster’s Conference also gave a brief speech in place of Professor James Coleman, founder of Duke Innocence Project.

Wrongfully convicted Winston-Salem native Darryl Hunt addressed the audience, calling out racial and socioeconomic biases prevalent in the justice system. Although he acquired a variety of debilitating medical conditions as a result of his wrongful imprisonment, Hunt was able to speak effectively and with emotion for nearly eight minutes.

Hunt’s speech was followed by a “no justice, no peace” chant. Other chants and poems by students from WSSU and Wake Forest University as well as chants paying homage to the #BlackLivesMatter movement were incorporated throughout the event.

Wake Forest student Corrine Sugino and Salem College students Jocelyn Evans and Sha’kiera Keyser spoke about biases within the criminal justice systems that disproportional affect people of color.

WSSU’s Music. In. Action. group delivered a powerful spoken word performance.

photo- cassidy miller
photo- cassidy miller

WSSU Jaylon Herbin changed the tone of the event with a call to action, speaking in depth about the importance of the vote (the last day to register for the North Carolina primaries was Feb. 19). While those involved with #FreeKalvinNow expressed that they did not want to tell people any particular way to vote, they wanted voters to understand that their votes do matter.

“Your vote is your voice,” says Herbin.

Finally, the event was closed with a video of Smith himself and the singing of “Lift Every Voice” led by Concerned Students. In the video created by Keith Barber, Smith commented on aspects of his life in prison and the importance of his case because of what it represented. Smith wants to prevent others from experiencing a fate like his own. Smith also expressed his sincere gratitude for all of the people volunteering their time and working on the case.


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