Introducing Communi-TEA: A Blog by Ahliyah Sanford MPP'23

 January 31, 2022

Hello to Our Wonderful Sanford Community!

My name is Ahliyah, and I am the graduate research assistant for Diversity and Inclusion. As a first-year MPP student, I have A LOT to say, so I finessed a blog to share my thoughts with all of you. I will be creating blog posts every month about Sanford, our amazing courses, and our experiences here! This will be a brutally honest and fully transparent blog where I grapple with complex course topics, dynamics, and campus climate. I hope you enjoy this content!

Woman, big smile, lots of flowers behind her
Ahliyah Sanford, Communi-TEA author

We all know this has not been the start that we imagined for this new year and semester. We have had to endure weeks of virtual classes, winter storms, COVID outbreaks, and the complexities of life in general. Our community’s strength and resilience never cease to amaze me. I can’t wait to see all of you in class!

Classes this semester have been extremely interesting and engaging. One of my favorite courses I am taking is Criminal Justice Issues: A North Carolina Study, taught by Professor McKissick. This month, we heard from guest speaker, Greg Taylor, who spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Taylor, who is white, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison because he refused to lie and help the cops pin the crime on his acquaintance, Johnny Beck. As a Black woman, I felt anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, and hopelessness. I was furious to hear how the cops referred to Mr. Beck, who is Black, with a vile and heinous racial slur. I was sad to see all Mr. Taylor lost because he chose to uphold the truth. He lost his wife, job, good name, and the opportunity to raise his daughter. I was confused because I could not understand how the prosecution was able to withhold evidence in this case. I felt hopeless because it reminded me of how entrenched racism is in our criminal justice system.

Mr. Taylor’s story is one of many. New York City’s Exonerated 5 collectively spent 34 years in prison because a prosecutor needed someone to blame for that horrendous crime and five Black youth fit the bill. How many more individuals were forced to spend decades in prison for a crime they did not commit? How much longer will we allow this injustice to continue? How many more lives need to be ruined before we implement change? It is up to us, the future policymakers and researchers of the world, to advocate for systemic change and mend this broken system.

Ahliyah Sanford MPP '23 is a graduate research assistant for Sanford's Diversity and Inclusion team. Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at Sanford.