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Coalition seeks healing and rebuilding
Anne Carter and Circe Stumbo
Mar. 18, 2023 6:27 pm
On March 6, The Gazette published an article about the case of Devonna Walker and Shane Teslik. We believe it is important to understand differing perspectives about this case.
On Jan. 2, Walker, a 29-year-old Black woman, was stabbed. She died shortly thereafter. A video shows Teslik, a white male neighbor, yelling at Devonna, “I’m going to f***ing kill you” and “Shut the f*** up, you f***ing n*****.” Devonna responded to his hateful and inciting taunts by rushing toward him. While the video provides a clear view of Shane stabbing Devonna, Shane was initially interviewed by police and released without being charged. On Feb. 27, County Attorney Nick Maybanks did authorize charges (voluntary manslaughter and disorderly conduct) and Shane Teslik was arrested shortly thereafter.
During the two months between the taking of Devonna’s life and the arrest of Shane Teslik, a coalition of social justice advocates engaged in actions to raise public awareness and to seek justice for Devonna, her family and larger community. The coalition represents a diverse group of individuals and consists of a growing list of community-based organizations, including Advocates for Social Justice, Cedar Rapids NAACP Branch, Indivisible, Marion Alliance for Racial Equity, Parents Against Violence Everywhere, Stand in Unity, and We Are CR. As County Attorney Maybanks declared in his Feb. 3 news release, “The loss of human life through violence is always traumatic to the community.” The coalition is a witness to that trauma.
Unfortunately, our coalition has been accused of provoking divisiveness and distrust through our actions of the past two months. We are saddened by these charges, when it is clear to us that the racial divides in our country and community are well documented and predate us all. As we took to the streets to express our own fears about the Devonna Walker case and to channel feelings of hopelessness and despair communicated to us by our neighbors, we were not grandstanding. Our intention has always been to work across the community to repair harm (as the first step to repairing harm is to name it) and to fix policies and practices that have unfair implications for people of color.
We have found that coming together to seek justice for Devonna in a coalition takes intention; staying together is something we do not take for granted. We work hard to maintain collaboration, seek to understand different perspectives, and are committed to honoring the dignity of each of us in the coalition. We hope that our calls for action and communication help our entire community engage in reconciliation.
We must talk about how the criminal justice system disproportionately impacts Black communities. We must disrupt the historical pattern that demonizes Black and brown victims, while the conduct and character of the white individuals who have committed offenses are essentially ignored. Devonna was a mother, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor. We must resist the ongoing degradation of Devonna’s character, especially when juxtaposed to the relative silence about Shane’s past.
This case could take years to adjudicate. We hope you join us in the genuine healing and rebuilding.
Anne Harris Carter is a member of the Advocates for Social Justice and Circe Stumbo is a member of the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity.
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