Juanita E. Mantz, a writer, performer, podcaster, lawyer and deputy public defender, will be the first presenter of the new academic year as Cal State San Bernardino’s Conversations on Race and Policing begins its fourth year.

The program, free and open to the public, will take place on Zoom beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. It can be accessed from a PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android at https://tinyurl.com/csusb-race-policing.

Mantz, also known as “JEM,” is a USC Gould School of Law-educated lawyer, writer, performer and podcaster who believes writing has the power to change the world. She graduated from UC Riverside in 1999 with a degree in English literature and from USC Law in 2002.

After working at big firms, she became a criminal defense attorney with the Riverside County public defender’s office for over 15 years and specialized in representing mentally ill clients. Mantz has taken numerous serious felony cases to trial on the mental health issues and is on the forefront of mental health law representing incompetent clients advocating for diversion.

As a writer, she has published a memoir, “Tales of an Inland Empire Girl,” and a chapbook, “Portrait of a Public Defender (or how I became a punk rock lawyer).” She also hosts a video podcast, “Life of JEM,” in which she interviews her favorite writers.

Conversations on Race and Policing began after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and its aftermath. It was the death of Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, that sparked widespread protests, calls for reform and revamping of the nation’s policing system, difficult and hard conversations on race and racism – and gave birth to Cal State San Bernardino’s Conversations on Race and Policing, also known as CoRP.

In subsequent court cases, three other former Minneapolis police officers implicated in Floyd’s death were given prison sentences.

The series has featured scholars, journalists, law enforcement officers, lawyers, activists, artists, educators, administrators and others from throughout the nation who shared their experience and expertise on issues related to race and policing.

More than 70 forums have taken place, and video recordings of the sessions are posted online on the Conversations on Race and Policing Lecture Series Archive. 

“For the past three years, the series has served our campus community by providing a space for critical conversations concerning the long history, legacy, and impact of race and racism on our society,” said Christina M. Hassija, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, which is a major supporter of CoRP. “I am grateful for the efforts of Dr. (Jeremy) Murray, Mr. (Robie) Madrigal, and all of the faculty, staff, and students that contribute to this meaningful and dynamic series and look forward to learning from this year’s distinguished guests.”

The CSUSB Libraries also is a major supporter of the series. “Libraries traditionally provide a common ground to discuss challenging topics, engage the community, and advance access to civil rights information,” said Rebecca Lubas, dean of the CSUSB Libraries. “I am proud that the CSUSB Libraries can play a supporting role in this important discourse on race and policing.”

The guest presenters in the September lineup of Conversations on Race and Policing, each at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, include:

·       Sept. 13: Robert Chao Romero, professor of Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and author of “Christianity and Critical Race Theory: A Faithful and Constructive Conversation;”

·       Sept. 20: Max Felker-Kantor, associate professor of history a Ball State University and author of “Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD;” and

·       Sept. 28: Guesnerth Josué Perea, executive director of the Afrolatin@ Forum.

The series is organized by Matt Patino (CSUSB MA candidate); CSUSB faculty members Mary Texeira (sociology) and Jeremy Murray (history); Robie Madrigal, public affairs/communication specialist for the CSUSB John M. Pfau Library; Michael German, fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice; and community member Stan Futch, president of the Westside Action Group.

For more information, contact Robie Madrigal at rmadriga@csusb.edu or Jeremy Murray at jmurray@csusb.edu.

Also visit the Conversations on Race and Policing webpage.