Hundreds of people waited in silence as Michelle-Charmaine Lawson walked onto the quad at Humboldt State University, shedding tears while she exchanged hugs.
Lawson’s son, David Josiah Lawson, was fatally stabbed 23 months ago and his homicide case remains unsolved. Earlier this week, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced a grand jury chose not to indict anyone for the crime.
“I’m going to just speak from my heart,” Michelle-Charmaine Lawson said to the crowd. “We got a very bad decision on Thursday … I need your support, D.J. needs your support.”
She also spoke during a vigil on the Humboldt County Courthouse on Friday evening.
Times are difficult right now, she told the crowd gathered on the quad at HSU. Although many have commended her for showing strength during what has been almost two years since her son’s death, she shared she is “hurting” and “heartbroken.”
She recounted carrying David Josiah Lawson in her womb for nine months, saying that right now she needs her son “more than ever.”
During a scholarship award ceremony in his senior year of high school, David Josiah Lawson told the crowd what would later ring true for his mother.
“My son said, ‘No one will go through hell and back for me (more) than my mother, Charmaine Lawson, sitting at table 23. Stand up, Mom,’” she recounted. “And I’m literally going through hell and back for my son. I don’t think he knew it when he said it.”
She vowed to continue pursuing justice for her son.
“I can’t bring him back, but I’m going to fight,” she said. “I’m not giving up on my son … I am going to fight, I’m going to die fighting to get justice for my son.”
Throughout Michelle-Charmaine Lawson’s speech, many in the crowd were in tears.
Associated Students President Jazmin Sandoval said the recent decision from the grand jury has left her with a mix of emotions.
“I’m very disappointed and I’m very angry about the decision,” she said. “It’s shocking. I thought it was going to be different. I had hope.”
Sandoval said the decision is the latest reaffirmation of white supremacy.
“If it had been the other way around, you know that there would’ve already been somebody convicted,” she said.
Michelle-Charmaine Lawson has been strong, acting as the glue that has held everyone together, Sandoval said. Now is the time for everyone to come together and show support for her, Sandoval said.
HSU student Andrea Mancilla said the outcome of events so far has been “devastating.” Mancilla came to HSU shortly after the fatal stabbing in April 2017, and was unaware of the incident leading to his death before she arrived. She said she wanted to make sure people knew about what happened, and is sharing Lawson’s story with her friends in Southern California.
“It just literally fell through the cracks and I just can’t stop thinking about how a mother is supposed to accept that,” she said. “I think this is the start of a much bigger issue … this is definitely a catalyst.”
Michelle-Charmaine Lawson shared the story of Lucy McBath, who was working as a flight attendant when her 17-year-old son was fatally shot over an argument about loud music. McBath ran for Congress several years later and won.
“I should run for president because they’ll just put anybody in the White House,” Michelle-Charmaine Lawson joked. “I’m going to make changes too. I don’t know if I’m going to be a congresswoman, but I’m going to make change.”
Michelle-Charmaine Lawson said she is working on “Josiah’s House,” which will be a home for students facing homelessness.
“This town will never forget DJ Lawson,” she said. “I love you, son, we’ll see each other in paradise. Rest on, my son.”
Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.