Criminal Justice Students Host Campus-Wide Event on Police-Community Relations

Jazzmine Anderson (Criminal Justice Freshman & 400 Years of African American History Commission IFFML Service Ambassador), Dr. Kideste Yusef (Criminal Justice Department Chair & National Coordinator, IFFML), Courtney Williams (Criminal Justice Senior & 400 Years of African American History Commission IFFML Service Ambassador) and Dr. Karlene Blackman, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, B-CU Site Coordinator for IFFML.

Caption: Jazzmine Anderson (Criminal Justice Freshman & 400 Years of African American History Commission IFFML Service Ambassador), Dr. Kideste Yusef (Criminal Justice Department Chair & National Coordinator, IFFML), Courtney Williams (Criminal Justice Senior & 400 Years of African American History Commission IFFML Service Ambassador) and Dr. Karlene Blackman, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, B-CU Site Coordinator for IFFML.

Dr. Kideste Yusef wears many hats. Officially, she is an associate professor of criminal justice and director of the B-CU Center for Law and Social Justice. She also serves as the national coordinator for the 400 Years of African American History Federal Commission, an organization that operates out of the U.S. Department of the Interior, with support from the National Park Service, and the National Alliance of Faith and Justice. In this capacity, she also leads the student and law enforcement engagement efforts for the commission’s national “I Fear for My Life (IFFML)” Initiative, which seeks to establish dialogue between young Black people and the police as part of an ongoing effort to improve policing and criminal justice outcomes, especially for communities of color in the U.S.

“The Black experience, from slavery to freedom, has largely been informed by encounters with law enforcement,” the organization’s website reads. “From the infamous slave patrols before the Civil War to efforts to strictly control the movement of African Americans after the war in the form of the Black Codes; and from stop-and-frisk to the war on drugs to broken-windows policing strategies, officers of the law often have been used as tools of social control and repression. African Americans carry that historical trauma forward in our perceptions of police.”

Recently, the I Fear For My Life Initiative partnered with national speaker and author Kemba Smith to increase awareness about policing in the case of intimate partner violence. Smith, whose experience as a 24-year-old sentenced to 24 years in prison for crimes she did not commit became a national example of the harmful effects of mandatory sentencing policies enacted during the War on Drugs in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Thanks to Dr. Yusef’s involvement, the commission has been intentional about including students from Bethune-Cookman to participate in the trainings and activities of the initiative. Recently, Courtney Williams and Jazzmine Anderson, (sophomore and freshman students in the criminal justice department) joined the Miss Black USA contestants from around the country to train as domestic violence service ambassadors. As a culminating activity, the students led a discussion around fear of law enforcement in the Black community, and particularly how it impacts domestic partner violence cases.