NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma kicked off Justice Week with a public forum Monday titled “Luis Rodriguez: No en Vano.”
Critically acclaimed author, Esmeralda Santiago discussed the “Transformative Power of Art,” while joining five panelists who discussed race, media, politics and social justice to raise awareness about the death of Luis Rodriguez, a former Norman resident originally from Puerto Rico who died during a confrontation with off-duty police officers.
Rodriguez was breaking up a disagreement between his wife and youngest daughter at the Moore Warren Theatre when five security officers approached him.
Although he carried no weapon, officers handcuffed him and took him to the ground. His wife and daughter stood by. Rodriguez was later pronounced dead in the early morning of Feb. 15. The medical examiner’s office has since ruled the incident a homicide.
Dialogue during the Justice Week event was key.
“We wanted to provide an academic space where students, faculty, staff, colleagues and members of the OU and community at large could raise important issues and model how difficult discussions can take place,” said Meta G. Carstarphen, Ph.D., director of graduate programs in the College of Journalism and event coordinator.
The purpose of the program was three-fold: to provide public dialogue, acknowledge Rodriguez’s death and work proactively to support reconciliation and healing and to build the community around his family to provide them with a forum that will help them tell their stories.
Rodriguez’s daughter, Yashira Rodriguez, said that for her family, it isn’t about vengeance.
“We’re not against the police,” Rodriguez said. “We’re against the police who use their badges to abuse people.”
Speakers included Carstarphen, Jeanette Davidson, Ph.D., Robert Kerr, Ph.D., Maria-Elena Diaz, Ph.D., attorney Marcus J. Bivines, MaryAnn Martin, Ph.D., and Lena Khader.