Fatal shooting led outstanding grad to deepen desire to work for change in criminal justice system
Michael Brown’s death ‘put my mind into activism’
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.
Natasha Davis was a high school freshman in August 2014 when she learned that an 18-year-old man named Michael Brown, who was close to some of her friends, was fatally shot by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
The spring 2022 Outstanding Graduate from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, who lived in the St. Louis area, said she saw firsthand the resulting public outcry, some of which involved friends who participated in silent sit-ins and other protests such as walking out of school.
“It put my mind into activism,” said Davis, who earned Bachelor of Science degrees in criminology and criminal justice and in justice studies. “Even though I was very young and didn’t understand these issues in their full capacity, I wanted things to change. I didn’t want that to happen to any other people within my community.”
Growing up, Davis had a passion for understanding criminal justice investigations, she said, and she knew that she wanted to somehow combine activism with knowledge of the criminal justice system.
Once Davis decided to attend ASU, she said she wanted to learn more about racial inequality, sexual orientation inequality, as well as discrimination and inequality, generally. She changed her initial criminal justice minor to a major to advance her understanding of these topics — and her professional goals.
“Understanding the fundamentals, the history of court system and its foundation is the only way to make a change. I wanted to see how changes can be implemented in the criminal justice system,” she said.
Davis said she is highly concerned about the future of at-risk children, many of whom are of color and who live in poverty.
“Their only option sometimes might be stealing or criminal activity that puts them in the criminal justice system. That creates generational cycles. We need to guide them to avoid this,” she said.
Read on to learn more about Davis’ ASU journey:
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
Answer: One thing that has stood out to me was the history of injustice within marginalized communities. I have taken multiple history classes during my time here at ASU, but African American History really allowed me to understand the depth of trauma black people have faced throughout generations and how the past shapes and molds the future.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU mainly based on location. I knew that I wanted to relocate from St. Louis, and Arizona has always been close to my heart, as my mother lived here when she was younger. With that being said, I have highly considered going into law and ASU has a very highly ranked law school. I knew that by attending ASU for my undergraduate years I would be able to make connections which could assist me in graduate school or as an alum.
Q: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Gregory Broberg taught me that no matter what I encounter, I am capable of success, and that I will always have support in everything that I do. There have been times when I doubted my abilities but he was always one email away with words of encouragement and the ability to set up a meeting to create a plan.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Live in the moment. Four years may seem like a long time, but it went by so much faster than I could have ever imagined. Make as many memories as possible by joining organizations and going to events. Before you know it, you will be walking across the stage, so make sure that when you graduate from ASU that you leave with no regrets!
Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends or to just think about life?
A: I spent most of my time studying at Hayden Library. This facility has many individual and group study rooms. In addition, this library is close to the Memorial Union, where you can get meals and snacks while you’re studying.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I plan to find a job working in the field of criminal justice or other activism-related areas of employment and then potentially return to school for my master’s degree following a gap year. This gap year will allow me the opportunity to find an area of the criminal justice system in which I am most interested in exploring further and get my master’s in this area.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would create programs to provide resources and guidance to at-risk youth communities. Far too often, members of marginalized communities fall into cycles involving interactions with law enforcement and poverty. If there were more programs to assist these communities then hopefully these cycles could be avoided.