The racial reckoning of 2020 and the murder of George Floyd led Aurora attorney Sharonda Roberson, 26, to shift her 10-year plan to a two-year plan. The family law and criminal defense attorney went from working at a law firm to starting her own private practice in January.
“No one understands the impact this one murder had, personally, on my life,” Roberson said. “It gave me my voice. I never saw myself as someone who would be out on the front lines. I knew I was very opinionated, passionate, but I never thought that I will be out protesting and creating a grassroots organization for systemic racism. I am so sad that this happened to George Floyd because that murder shouldn’t have happened. But it gave people like me a voice for the community, so it’s helping us progress forward.”
Almost one year ago, Roberson organized her first peace rally, centered on police reform, with the help of friends and members of a private Facebook group she’d created for Aurora residents to share complaints about the city, including transparency regarding the complaint process against police officers. Since then, Roberson has helped organize The People’s Coalition, a multicultural group with the goals of fighting for economic and racial injustices, better education for the community, and easily accessible resources. After Roberson’s demand letter to local elected and law officials, Aurora put in place a civilian review board to review matters involving the Aurora Police Department.
“That was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “It’s baby steps. We have improved. We got the people in the community very engaged, people who’ve never been engaged before. So it’s still a step forward. We’re accomplishing what we can.”
The coalition is keeping the conversation going about racial injustice, while gearing up to do summer events, including a poetry slam to raise money for The People’s Coalition Bond Fund, which pays bonds for people charged with crimes in the four counties of Aurora (DuPage, Kendall, Kane and Will); an empowerment conference to raise money for domestic violence survivors; and a block party centering on voter registration, Roberson said.
“We’re not waiting for the next George Floyd; we’re staying very proactive,” Roberson said. “You can’t just say I want to do community activism work only when a big incident in the media has happened. You have to continue that grassroots work all the time. Take care of yourself and your community, so when something happens, you are equipped, you’re ready and you can tackle that issue.”