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Speaking at Westfield State University, civil rights attorney Ben Crump pushes for diversity, equity and inclusion

WESTFIELD — When he was a child, in fourth grade, Benjamin Lloyd Crump lived in a public housing project in Lumberton, North Carolina, and witnessed the differences between his side of town and the white side of town, which had new schools, newer books and new facilities.

“From that day, I grew up and told myself I am going to be a lawyer like Thurgood Marshall and fight to make it better for people like the ones in my community,” Crump said. “I want people who look like me to have an equal opportunity at the American dream, from that day to this one.”

“That’s what I wake up every morning and endeavor to do,” he said.

Today, Crump is a nationally-known civil rights attorney, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the residents of Flint, Michigan, who were affected by the positioned water of the Flint River.

Before arriving yesterday at Westfield State University, where he held his lecture, “Justice in 2022 and Beyond,” Crump was at New Haven’s City Hall, to represent the family of Randy Cox, a man arrested on June 19 and left paralyzed from the chest down after being placed in a van not equipped with seat belts.

Crump’s inspiration comes from Marshall, the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, and other nationally known attorneys such as Constance Baker Motley and Johnnie Cochran, who helped influence the way he approached each case.

“Thurgood Marshall always said he tried to take cases that would not just have an impact on the individuals and their families but have the greatest impact on the largest society,” Crump said. “That’s why I took on the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.”

“I take on cases that will hopefully impact not only the lives of individuals and their communities but legislation that will have an impact on all of us,” he added.

Diversity, equity and inclusion were the main messages Crump conveyed to the guests of his lecture, specifically the Westfield State students who were in attendance.

“I want to be able to make sure these young people have the tools, mentality and intellect to know that they are the future and the best we have to offer the world,” Crump said. “If we are going to win this battle for equality and justice, it’s because they are well equipped.”

During the lecture, he further emphasized that people of all races and backgrounds are to be valued, something that struck with Westfield State senior Dionn Casanova.

“As a man of color in the United States, nothing’s easy,” Casanova said. “It’s like he stated, you’re always constantly fighting a war.”

Heavily inspired by Crump’s mission for diversity, equity and inclusion for all, Casanova, who is of Latino descent, plans to improve diversity initiatives in corporate environments once he graduates after receiving his degree in political science.

“Crump has motivated me because he was a regular human being before he became an attorney,” Casanova said. “Out of nowhere, he started using his leadership and communication skills together to make things happen.”

“I truly believe that after meeting him, we can make diversity, equity and inclusion happen at Westfield State,” he said.

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