From the Nominator
This print magazine feature centers on the 1948 police killing of a Louisiana man, Royal Cyril Brooks, and the efforts of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project to bring his family closure, redress, and reconciliation. Through interviews with Brooks’ relatives and CRRJ lawyers—as well as research into the CRRJ historical archives—Schuyler Velasco examines the process of restorative justice and its potential role in the modern day fight for racial justice.
Beginning with the story of how the CRRJ originally reached out to the Brooks family, and how the secrecy and lack of a cohesive historical record around the killing had been affecting them for decades, Velasco draws the reader in through empathetically detailed description and a sense of justice deferred. She then pans out to the historical context of racial violence in the period between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement.
Through the work of the CRRJ, Velasco writes, the Brooks story reaches a bittersweet resolution. She brings readers the image of Brooks’ family celebrating the erection of an historical marker of his death with a New Orleans-style funeral parade. But she notes that the local police department has still never apologized or commented on the case. The piece’s conclusion draws an explicit connection between restoring the forgotten history of Royal Cyril Brooks and the “say their names” mantra of the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement, leaving readers with a fully realized example of remembrance as a path to justice.
From the Judges
Hard to put into words how powerful this story is. One judge noted that he plans to make a gift to this institution based solely on this story. This deserves a wider audience than merely Northeastern's readership.