As protests against police raged throughout the country last summer following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, Stan Maclin took a different approach.
Maclin, a longtime community activist and director of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in Harrisonburg, brought local police and the community to the table to discuss the racial tensions that were permeating throughout the country.
The 67-year-old died Tuesday, according to family.
“He was just a great inspirational leader,” said Frank Sottaceti, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County’s criminal justice planner. “He was a unifier in our community. What initially stood out, this was a lifelong endeavor for him. He looked at everyone as being equal.”
Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after his neck was pinned under the knee of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin has since been fired and is charged with murder. Additional officers have also been charged.
Maclin founded the People’s Equality Commission of the Shenandoah Valley following one of the protests held in Harrisonburg in the wake of Floyd’s death.
He hosted a series of meetings, some of which are still planned, so that community members could get to know the officers who took the oath to protect and serve their neighborhoods.
“It’s back to the basics,” Maclin said during the initial meeting in August. “I can still tell you who my neighborhood officers were when I was a child.”
Interim Police Chief Gabriel Camacho said Maclin was an asset to the Harrisonburg community.
“He was an advocate … a voice,” he said, adding that Maclin wasn’t afraid to raise tough questions. “He wanted honest conversations. We’re saddened by his loss. Our hearts go out to his family.”
Over the years, Maclin has made countless contributions to the Shenandoah Valley.
Maclin was a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Way Coalition, which ultimately resulted in the renaming of Cantrell Avenue in Harrisonburg to honor the late civil rights leader.
Maclin first brought up the idea of naming a street after King.
“I just felt there needed to be a permanent symbol of that diversity,” he said at the time.
Maclin, who got into some trouble himself in his younger days, was also known for his advocacy for those being released from prison.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst said she’s worked with Maclin for years talking to inmates who were about to walk out the jail doors.
“He really cared about the reentry program,” she said. “He led by example and wanted to make sure that this was a community that was open-minded.”
Garst and Maclin visited the Rockingham County Jail to provide classes for inmates to help with finances, employment and education search and other skills needed to successfully maneuver the world.
Those classes, because of COVID-19, shifted to video. Garst said Maclin was in her office last week to record another episode in the series of classes.
“It’s a terrible loss for the community,” she said. “I’m going to miss him incredibly.”