Know Your Rights Day honored with Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award

Photo courtesy of MSU Law

Michigan State University College of Law students Valerie Uduji and Joshua Cambri, and Professor Nancy Costello accepted the Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award for their work participating in Know Your Rights Day at the DEI award ceremony held at the MSU Kellogg Center on Feb. 9, 2024.

Know Your Rights Day is an event hosted by the MSU College of Law where a group of law students spend the day at Cass Technical High School in Detroit to teach high school students about their 4th and 5th Amendment rights, and how handle confrontations with police.

“We hope that this legacy can continue on because it is part of this really important national conversation,” Uduji said while accepting the award.

Know Your Rights Day was started by Costello and the first student organizer was Law College alumnae Gabrielle Boyer Ragland in 2016. She was inspired to help educate high school students about their Miranda rights after the controversial police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Ragland said that the confusion involving Brown’s constitutional rights at the time of the altercation was worrisome to herself and her peers.

“If you don’t know your rights you don’t know what officers can do to you or can’t do to you, and you could get yourself in more trouble — you could get hurt,” Ragland said. “So, we thought it was really important to start teaching kids about their rights.”

The first event in 2016 was the MSU College of Law’s Black Lives Matter Day, later renamed Know Your Rights Day.

“It’s really taken off and I’m so happy,” Ragland said. “I’m very proud of the work that the law students have been doing. When you start something like this you think, ‘Oh this will just be a one-time thing, then it’s done,’ but to know it’s continuing to grow is amazing.”

In 2023, Know Your Rights Day was supervised by Costello, director of the First Amendment Law Clinic and organized by third-year law students Uduji and Cambri. MSU Law alums Megan Shaya and Maya Pascal organized the event in 2022 and 2021. Professor Catherine Grosso and former Professor Jennifer Rosa provided legal expertise for the workshops.

In the workshops led by MSU Law students, Cass Tech students learn what their constitutional rights are and how to interact with police officers to avoid potentially violent situations. The workshops stimulate discussion about an ongoing national problem and provide a safe place to share systemic experiences of bias and trauma while encouraging young people to join in the national conversation of what to do about it.

“It meant a lot to me when young black girls or young black boys would come up to me after the workshop and be like ‘I want to be a lawyer too, how did you get involved?’ I could see the inspiration I was giving them,” Uduji said in a video that played before the Know Your Rights Day team accepted the award. “I want to continue to give back. I think it is important for them to see people who look like them doing these things.”

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