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Boys and Girls Club to host criminal justice town hall in wake of Ahmaud Arbery death
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Boys and Girls Club to host criminal justice town hall in wake of Ahmaud Arbery death

Madison youth are set to take part in a 90-minute town hall meeting Friday to discuss issues in the criminal justice system, racial disparities and other social justice topics in the wake of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

The town hall meeting, which will be streamed live on the Madison365, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and Coastal Georgia Community Action Authority Facebook pages at 11 am will provide youths from both the Madison area and the Brunswick, Georgia, area a chance to have their voices heard about racial issues in this generation. 

Madison365 publisher Henry Sanders and Zerik Samples, a resident from Brusnwick who has been working with the Arbery family, will host the town hall along with a youth panel.

Noah Anderson: A graduate of Madison West High School and the former president of the Black Student Union at West, Anderson was instrumental in community conversations and demonstrations following the firing of his father, Marlon Anderson, for confronting a student who called him the N-word in 2019. 

Sirena Flores: A graduate of Madison East High School currently studying political science and sociology at UW-Madison, Flores was a friend of Tony Robinson, who was killed in 2015 by a Madison police officer.

Terjuan Short: Short won the 2018 Boys and Girls Club of Dane County Youth of the Year award and is currently an honors student at UW-Madison. 

Karl Henderson, Jr.: Henderson is from Detroit and is currently living in Bellevue, Washington, where he is a product manager for Microsoft Maps and A.I. Experiences.

James Woodall: An 8-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve and the youngest man to ever be president of the NAACP in Georgia. 

Natasha Woods: A 2020 graduate of Brunswick High School and planning to attend the University of Georgia this coming fall. 

The panel came about through a collaboration between Samples and Boys and Girls Club of Dane County president and CEO Michael Johnson, who worked with Samples on issues around hurricane relief in recent years. 

“I’m excited about these young people coming together and having an honest conversation,” Johnson told The Cap Times. “I’m looking forward to hearing them speak about the anxieties and fears they have as teens and young professionals.”

The Coastal Georgia Community Action Authority is one of the largest human service agencies in Coastal Georgia. Programs like Head Start, weatherization, energy assistance and income tax preparation are some of the services they offer the community. 

“We are so excited to host this virtual town hall meeting,” said Tres Hamilton, the CEO of the Coastal Georgia Community Action Authority. “It is important that the youth have a space to voice their concerns regarding racial disparities in their lives and local communities.”

Jasmine Arbery, Ahmaud’s sister, will also be joining the discussion. Arbery is a graduate of Albany State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is pursuing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. 

Michael Johnson is attempting to raise funds for Jasmine Arbery’s school tuition.

It is also possible, although Johnson was unable to confirm, that Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, will participate in the town hall as well. Cooper has been extremely vocal about her son’s death and has appeared on national shows such as CNN’s Tonight with Don Lemon. 

“I am thankful that these young people from both states and around the country are speaking up during these challenging times and we hope through this process youth voices are heard,” Cooper said in a statement. 

Ahmaud Arbery, who was 25, was shot to death while jogging on Feb. 23 by Travis McMichael, 34, and former Glynn County police officer Greg McMichael, 64. Greg McMichael told police investigators that he and his son grabbed their guns and chased down Arbery because he looked like a burglary suspect. 

Greg McMichael is now, according to national media reports, attempting to say that Arbery attacked Travis and tried to grab his shotgun which is why his son shot Arbery to death. A video that has been made public appears to show the two men parked in their truck as Arbery jogs towards them, with Travis McMichael brandishing a shotgun and having a physical altercation with Arbery, who was unarmed. During the altercation, Travis McMichael shot Arbery three times while Greg McMichael also brandished a handgun and looked on. 

There have not yet been any formal criminal charges brought against either Greg or Travis McMichael and the outbreak of COVID-19 kept protesters demanding justice for Arbery at bay until recent weeks. Two district attorneys from Glynn County have recused themselves, citing conflicts of interests with one saying that the McMichaelss acted in self-defense and that the McMichaels’ actions fall within the concept of making a citizen’s arrest. 

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