Tag Archive for: Black History Month

Assistant District Attorney Dwain Woodley Receives Bayard Rustin Award

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that Dwain Woodley, the Assistant District Attorney, was honored Wednesday night with the San Diego Human Relations Commission’s Bayard Rustin Honors award at a ceremony at City Hall.

The Bayard Rustin Honors awards celebrates San Diegans who work tirelessly as advocates or activists for equality and equity, social justice and community. Bayard Rustin was an American civil rights activist who was an adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr., and who was the main organizer of the March on Washington in 1963.

Woodley was recognized for his continued and tireless efforts in enhancing the equity, safety, and overall wellbeing of San Diego communities.

 “Dwain Woodley treats everyone with dignity and respect, giving a voice to the entire team and to the People of San Diego County,” DA Stephan said. “His leadership focuses on internal accountability and community-based partnerships. He has worked tirelessly to deliver fair and equal justice, support victims of crime, build trust with the public and develop direct access to our office for all the diverse communities we serve. I am proud to work alongside Assistant DA Dwain Woodley to continue to build a model prosecutor’s office that balances public safety and responsible criminal justice reform.”

Assistant DA Woodley helped develop and lead the DA’s Community Partnership Prosecutors program which has been especially successful connecting the public with much-needed services around domestic violence, child abuse and hate crimes. He also works with the advocacy organization “For the People” on reviewing cases that might qualify for prosecutor-initiated resentencings.

A former public defender, Woodley joined the DA’s Office as a Deputy DA in 2001. He began his management track in 2008 serving as Assistant Chief of Central Pretrial and Disposition Division, Assistant Chief of Superior Court Division, Chief of Superior Court Division, Chief of the Juvenile Branch, and Chief of the South Bay Branch. In 2018, DA Stephan named Woodley Chief Deputy DA and in 2021 he was selected as the Assistant District Attorney.

Woodley served honorably in the United States Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1989-1995, where he was both a prosecutor and defense counsel. His last assignment in the military was a staff attorney for Office of General Counsel at the National Security Agency. He then served as a San Diego Deputy Public Defender before joining the District Attorney’s Office in 2001.

“Dwain has been instrumental in further developing our office as one that reflects the diversity of the community we serve by striving to recruit and retain the most talented, diverse and inclusive workforce in order to improve our pursuit of a fair and equal justice for all,” DA Stephan said.

Woodley grew up in Baltimore Maryland and graduated from McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) and University of Maryland Law School and completed the Prosecutors for Now course at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Meet District Attorney Investigator Jovanna Derrough

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet District Attorney Investigator Jovanna Derrough. Her job is to support the Deputy District Attorneys in an investigative capacity with the cases they bring forth to trial. This can range from interviewing victims and witnesses and following up on investigative leads to writing search warrants, serving subpoenas or collecting evidence. Read more about what inspired her to pursue a career at the DA’s Office, below.

What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement/ at the DA’s Office?

“It probably sounds cliché, but I pursued a career in law enforcement because I wanted to help people. Everyone wants to belong to something… I joined the San Diego Police Department and became a part of a law enforcement brotherhood/sisterhood. At SDPD, I had the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge and investigative experience in the areas of narcotics, gangs, de-escalation, missing persons and cold case homicide and retired after 27+ years. I wanted to extend my law enforcement career and continue to serve the community by helping pursue justice for crime victims. Joining the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office gave me the opportunity to do just that.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

Black History Month is an opportunity to spotlight the countless contributions African Americans have made to our country, and to show pride in our achievements past and present. Representation matters. I believe educating, acknowledging, and accepting African American accomplishments provides all Americans the opportunity to celebrate African American achievements and see how they are woven into the fabric of building our country. ‘Knowing the past, opens the door to the future.’ -Carter G. Woodson.”

Meet Deputy District Attorney Isaac Jackson

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet Deputy District Attorney Isaac Jackson, who has been at the DA’s Office for over seven years. He is currently in the Family Protection Unit in North County doing Felony Trials concerning Child Abuse, Elder Abuse, and Domestic Violence. Read more about what inspired him to pursue a career at the DA’s Office, below.

What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement/ at the DA’s Office?

“I joined the DA’s office because I wanted to have a positive impact on my community. I grew up in Southeast San Diego, but I went to high school in Point Loma. Every day, I saw and felt the different relationships those communities had with law enforcement. It became apparent that a strong and healthy relationship with law enforcement is necessary for a strong and healthy community. I joined the DA’s office so I could help build that relationship.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

“It is easy to connect with someone with whom you can identify, and it is human nature to shy away from the unknown. For centuries, this country vilified people who were different from those in power and we are still feeling the effects of that today. Black History Month reminds some and teaches others that Black people have made significant and foundational contributions to this country. It allows Black people to celebrate a heritage of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles and shows other cultures and communities that we are not so different. We are all human beings seeking freedom and acceptance.”

Meet Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Division Samira Seidu

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet the Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Division, Deputy District Attorney Samira Seidu, who has been with the DA’s Office since 2009. As Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Division, Samira works closely with the Chief of the Juvenile Division and our justice partners throughout the county to ensure that our community is kept safe by working together to provide our youth with the services they need to reach their rehabilitative goals.  Read more about what inspired her to purse a career at the DA’s Office, below.

What inspired you to pursue a career at the DA’s Office?

“I had no idea I would wind up at the DA’s office when I started law school. I went to law school to pursue a career in environmental law. But while reading jury trial transcripts during an internship with the Attorney General Office’s Writs and Appeal section, I quickly decided I wanted to be a District Attorney. I wanted to work with the victims. I wanted to be the person in court arguing motions, questioning witnesses, and arguing the case to a jury. I wanted to be a trial lawyer, to give victims a sense of justice and to be a voice for the most vulnerable members of our community. I interned with the DA’s office in Spring 2008, and I have been here ever since.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

Black History Month is important because it is an opportunity to honor and celebrate the achievements of African Americans and the contributions they have made to American society. Black History Month is important because I don’t know that we would hear about these achievements and contributions otherwise. Although this singular month represents an opportunity to put a spotlight on the significant contributions Black Americans have made to this country, Black history is American history and Black history should be celebrated year-round.  Black history should be important to everyone.”

Meet Our Community Justice Champions

As we close out Black History Month, we want to take a moment and recognize the recipients of our DA Community Justice Champion Awards, for their extraordinary service and dedication to promoting just and safe communities:

Roosevelt Williams III, CEO of Young Black & In Business, is a DA Community Justice Champion for making significant, innovative, and impactful change on his community and the lives of minority owned businesses and entrepreneurs. He has been a good public safety partner in building bridges of trust with the community and using economic development tools to uplift and empower his community to create an environment for safer communities and prosperous quality of life for all.

Carla Crudup, Treasurer and Program Lead of Broadway Heights Community Council, is a DA Community Justice Champion for stepping up for her community and keeping the organization running in the wake of great loss, when the beloved founders of BHCC, Robbie and Barbara Robinson passed away. She has led the community in keeping the community events going, educating the youth on Black History, and recently unveiling the bust of Dr. Shirley Weber.

Precious Jackson Hubbard, Bell Middle School Principal, is a DA Community Justice Champion because she is a passionate educator focused on uplifting vulnerable youth through her work at Bell Middle School and as a member of the Board of Directors for San Diego Youth Services.

Meet DA Investigator Steve Hutchinson

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and their contributions to our community. Meet District Attorney Investigator Steve Hutchinson, who is currently assigned to the Special Operations Unit, where his main duties include reviewing officer-involved shootings and following up on hate crimes. Steve has been with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for approximately seven years. Read more about what inspired Steve to pursue a career in the DA’s Office, below.

Why did you choose a career at the DA’s Office?

“I came to the District Attorney’s Office after spending 32 years at the San Diego Police Department. During those 32 years, I’ve seen the ‘enforcement’ side of the criminal justice system, and being African American, I have seen some of the injustices and unequal treatment served on Black and Brown people outside AND inside of the organization. Once my eyes were opened, I spent the remainder of my career identifying and addressing those issues.

Now at the District Attorney’s Office, I get to see the ‘prosecution’ side of the criminal justice system. It is equally important to me to identify and address, within my assigned duties, the issues of anyone who feels that they were not treated fairly or equitable.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

“As I appreciate the fact that during the month of February, the contributions of African Americans to this great country are highlighted, recognized, and applauded; the fact of the matter is that these United States of America was built, literally, on the backs of African Americans. However, it saddens me that in this day and age, in prominent states in this country, the true history of Blacks in America is being suppressed and not allowed to be taught in schools for fear of hurting the feelings of some students. History IS history, which cannot be changed. Including the GOOD and BAD. But, if we don’t as a country, teach our country’s TRUE history, we WILL be doomed to repeat it. BLACK HISTORY IS HISTORY and should be told and recognized EVERY day, month, and year.”

Meet Paralegal Elyse Emge

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and their contributions to our community. Meet Paralegal Elyse Emge who started her career at the DA’s Office in April of 2022. Prior to coming to the DA’s office, Elyse worked as a Child Support Officer at the Department of Child Support Services. Read more about what inspired her to pursue a career at the DA’s Office, below.

Why did you choose a career at the DA’s Office?

“I have always had a passion in the criminal field. I moved from Pennsylvania to California in 2018. From 2016 – 2017, I worked for the York County DA’s office as a Confidential Secretary and Extraditions Coordinator. In 2017, I was recruited by the State and went to work for the Governor’s Office of General Counsel as a Criminal Justice Specialist. In this role, I handled statewide extraditions, interstate compacts, and worked on capital cases post appeals.

I went through and witnessed a lot in my adolescence. These hardships instilled in me a desire to do what I could to work against injustices; to advocate for those who need a voice; and to do what I can to ensure the process is fair and transparent. It’s important that those responsible are held accountable for their actions and/or get the help they need.

I’d have to say the favorite part of my job is the shared sense of camaraderie amongst my colleagues. We’re working towards the same goal. I also feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. It’s a humbling experience.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

“Black History Month, like many months of recognition, are important because they bring awareness to the continued struggles of marginalized people. It’s important to bring awareness and remember the history of where we, as a people, have come from; to see where we are now; and continue to grow and learn from that history. It’s also important to teach the true, unadulterated facts of our past so we do not repeat those mistakes.”

Meet Administrative Paralegal Mary Dickerson-Shaw

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and their contributions to our community. Meet Mary Dickerson-Shaw who is an Administrative Paralegal for the Chief of Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division and has been with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for 15 years. Read more about what inspired her to pursue a career at the DA’s Office, below.

Why did you choose a career at the DA’s Office?

“It was a dream come true when I received the offer of employment with the Office of the District Attorney to join the crimefighting family. I have been employed with the agency for 15 years and find my career in public safety valuable.

In working as the Chief’s Administrative Paralegal, I have experienced the opportunity of being cross-designated and working on clandestine operations prosecuted under state and federal jurisdiction. My role is to focus on the orderly administration of the division by acting as the repository for confidential personnel, grant budget, audit findings, and other division documents. I find it gratifying in serving as a liaison for the Division Chief and Assistant Chief with law enforcement members, task force and community outreach partners, vendors, and contractors. In addition, I am assigned to finding fugitives that fail to appear for proceedings, conducting criminal background checks, arrest warrant and restitution recovery tracking and helping with the development of the monthly General Management System reports to include special projects.

As a survivor of assault, I valued the help, appreciated the guidance, and was comforted in the commitment to my safety received from the prosecutor and team during the process of bringing my attacker to justice. I continue to find it comforting in volunteering and supporting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Employment in a field uplifting and protecting those that are often shammed and silenced was and is still my passion.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

Black History Month is an opportunity to concentrate on a lineage of a mixed and diverse people riddled by a history of slavery, struggle, racism, persistence, and accomplishment. A continued engagement with Black, Afro-Puerto Rican and Afro-Cuban History is vital as it lends to context for the present.

As a mixed raced woman, I find it extremely important in this climate of division and uncertainty to embrace the pride of my heritage in its entirety and focus on understanding the beauty, inclusivity, and contributions of my ancestors.

Black History Month is a time to build relationships, appreciate identities, celebrate differences, and have conversations relating to the past, present, and beyond.”

 

Meet Executive Secretary Norlice Smith

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and their contributions to our community. Meet Executive Secretary Norlice Smith, who has been working at the DA’s Office since 1997. Read more about what inspired her to pursue a career at the DA’s Office, below.

Why did you choose a career at the DA’s Office?

“In 1994, I started working for the County of San Diego because I wanted to do something in Community Service. I was working as an Office Assistant in Forensic Mental Health. At that time, my only knowledge of a prosecutor’s office was what I had seen on television. I thought it would be a depressing place to work because employees dealt with crime all the time. One of my tasks was picking up DA files from the DA’s office for the psychologists and psychiatrists to review before they evaluated the defendants. Contrary to my belief, I discovered the office actually had high morale. The employees I met had been working there for several years and had no plans to leave. I decided I wanted to serve our community by doing my small part of assisting the Deputy District Attorneys get justice for victims of crime. A bonus would be that I would have a more secure job because this was during the time when our country was supporting Public Safety and doing budget cuts in the mental health field. As soon as I found out there was an opening, I applied and got the job. It has been very fulfilling to have a career that has purpose.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?

Black History Month is important to me because all Americans should be reminded of the contributions our Black citizens have made to this country. We should never forget the sacrifices they have made to make this country a better place for everyone. It is a reminder that we should not take our rights for granted. They can be taken away. We saw examples of this in 2013, when the Voting Rights Act was changed, and in 2022 when Roe v. Wade was overturned. When Black Americans fought for civil rights, all underrepresented groups benefited.”

 

Meet Office Assistant Kanishia Holden

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of February, the DA’s Office is featuring stories of employees and their contributions to our community. Meet Office Assistant Kanishia Holden, who has been working at the DA’s Office for a little over one year and is currently assigned to the Priors Unit. There Kanishia drafts letters responding to requests from other law enforcement agencies regarding criminal case status and outcomes, she certifies court documents, and prepares prior packets for Court. Kanishia also assists with reception responding to queries by the public. Read more about what inspired her to pursue a career at the DA’s Office, below.

Why did you choose a career at the DA’s Office?
“I would say the DA’s Office chose me. I was a temporary worker working at the Jacobs Center and I received a phone call for a job interview. I have prior experience working as a security guard. One of my most memorable memories working as a security guard is a post I had in Downtown San Diego, which included working with San Diego County’s Probation Department. Another memorable memory of working security was my job post at Tubman Chavez Community Center, where I was the lead security guard. If anything happened during my shift, I would have to communicate with law enforcement. I remember talking to a police officer and her words were ‘you should work with us.’ Overall, my past work experience of working with Allied Universal influenced/introduced me into the criminal justice field. My favorite part of my job is delivering the completed product to the paralegals and working reception and calling out-of-County agencies.”

Why is Black History Month important to you?
Black History is important to me because it shows history and growth for Black American leaders who have made priceless deposits into history.”