Millennial blogger Tatayanne Wilson interviewed incumbent District Attorney Spencer Merriweather for her Facebook videolog BasicallyiBlog Tah. Below is an edited excerpt from their interview. Click for the full interview.
Tell us a little bit about you.
Merriweather: I am originally from Mobile, AL. I spent my entire childhood there, and I ended up going to Princeton University for undergraduate. After Princeton, I worked on Capitol Hill for a woman named Eleanor Holmes Norton. She was the delegate from DC. And at one point I decided I wanted to go to law school and I ended up the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While I was in law school, I was a bartender and waited tables for a little while and finally got interested in the work I am doing now. I have been a prosecutor for 11 years and about 5 months ago I was appointed by the governor to be the District Attorney for Mecklenburg County.
Have you ever attended an HBCU homecoming?
Merriweather: Howard homecoming.
Sometimes do you wonder if you missed the HBCU experience?
Merriweather: I did. Even though I did not attend an HBCU, it was very much a part of my upbringing. My father went to Alabama State (Montgomery, AL). My mother went to Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL). Many people in my family went to Alabama A&M University, Talladega College, my cousin attended Morehouse. I went to a lot of Classics growing up. So that experience was a part of me and truthfully I decided I wanted to go to Princeton to do something a little bit different. There certainly is a warm place in my heart for the HBCU experience.
Did you watch “A Different World?” Which character would you be?
Merriweather: It depends on the season. I had some Dwayne seasons. I had some Walter Oakes seasons. I had some Mr. Gaines seasons. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have some flip-up sunglasses!
What do you love most about Charlotte?
Merriweather: I love the fact that Charlotte is almost a place of a million people and still it feels very, very small. After living in DC and being close to New York City, you come to a place like Charlotte and you feel like there are just layers and layers of family deep here. It is the South in a good way, you know, and that’s something that resonates with me.
Back to some DA questions . . . Do you find opposition as a black DA here in Charlotte?
Merriweather: I think you do find some people who have to get used to the notion of an African American prosecutor and/or African American office holder. I take pride in the fact I bring my culture and my perspective into this position and there is no opposition I can’t overcome.
What is the state of crime in Mecklenburg County right now?
Merriweather: Last year, in Charlotte in particular, we saw an extremely challenging year with 87 homicides. What is particularly alarming is the increase in intimate homicides, domestic partner homicides and the way that we interact with one another. People think that kind of violence happens just between two people but no, that is something for which our entire community has responsibility.
What are you doing as the DA about repeat offenders? Repeat offenders concerning marijuana, heroin, etc.
Merriweather: For someone who is caught up in the cycle of addiction, there is no question what really needs to be at the forefront is treatment.
If we were to make marijuana legal in North Carolina, how much time would that free up in the court system?
Merriweather: Not a ton because the majority of our time in the court system is spent on violent crime.
Do you feel that you have changed the system, aside from removing cost for deferred prosecution, or implemented programing that has made a difference?
Merriweather: Yes. A person who is poor should still have access to full justice and a way of keeping their record clean. In order to build trust, I have to get out and work with people in the community and work with neighborhood organizations and involve them in the work we are trying to do. Another important value is we have gone about the work of creating a permanent expungement clinic in the courthouse. It is all about putting a value in a community. I have to make sure the people in our neighborhoods understand they have a fair broker in the district attorney’s office. I have already begun to show that in my short time in office.
Real quick. . . Jay-Z or Nas?
What is the best concert you have ever been to?
What are you listening to in your car right now?
Merriweather: I have Charlie Parker in the car right now.
BasicallyiBlog Tah: Who?
What is your nickname?
Merriweather: Tippy Toe.
Incumbent District Attorney Spencer Merriweather has been endorsed by the Black Political Caucus, John S. Leary Bar Association of Black Attorneys, The Charlotte Observer and more than 250 community organizations and individuals, including attorneys and elected officials. Learn more about Merriweather’s vision for building Justice You Can Trust.