Protesters, activists battle racial disparities through sports platform
The Sacramento Kings teamed up with the Build. Black. Coalition and the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter at “Kings and Queens Rise: A Youth Voice Forum for Healing” to create of an education fund for Stephon Clark’s family as well as a multi-year education fund intended to help youth at the South Sacramento Christian Church on March 30.
Over 500 attendees participated in an evening of lectures from community leaders and a writing workshop with UC Davis poet mentors. There was also a Q&A session with Garrett Temple, Vince Carter and former Kings player Doug Christie.
This coalition was formed following the March 18 shooting of Stephon Clark. Clark, a 22-year-old father of two, was shot and killed by police in Sacramento in his grandmother’s backyard. Officers say they believed his cell phone was a firearm.
Protests took place at multiple locations last week in Sacramento: outside of Sacramento County District Attorney Marie Schubert’s office, at Sacramento City Hall, and on I-5. The protests led to traffic stoppage and a blocked the entrance to the Golden 1 Center, delaying the basketball game’s start time and forcing police to shut the doors to ticket holders twice in one week.
President Donald Trump called the shooting a local issue, but the demonstrations quickly garnered national media attention.
Dr. Bennet Omalu’s autopsy revealed that Clark was shot eight times; six bullets hit Clark in the back.
The Sacramento County Coroner’s autopsy was completed on March 20, but those results are not expected to be released until after the Sacramento district attorney’s office completes its investigation of the shooting.
A Sacramento Police Department statement said that “prior to the shooting, the involved officers saw the suspect facing them, advance forward with his arms extended, and holding an object in his hands. At the time of the shooting, the officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them.”
The Golden 1 Center was first targeted by protesters on March 22 and again on March 27. No official attendance was given by the Kings, but estimates put attendance for March 27 at around 4,000 out of a 17,600 seat capacity.
For both days, protesters caused police to close the doors to ticket holders due to safety reasons. Sacramento police worked with the Golden 1 Center to increase security, installing fencing and barricades in anticipation of the March 29 game against Indiana.
“This is going to get everyone’s attention,” said Paul Desrochers, a protester who blocked the entrance to the Golden 1 Center on March 27. “What we want and need, needs to be heard, as black men, black women everywhere, and it’s not just Black Lives Matter, all lives matter. I have a white mom and girlfriend.”
“The police are crooked,” Desrochers said. “They have their own 10th amendment, they have the police bill of rights. They are above everything.”
Activists and protesters also showed up at Sacramento City Hall where a special meeting was convened by Mayor Darrell Steinberg intended to address the shooting of Stephon Clark. Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, voiced his frustration during the meeting, told Mayor Steinberg to “shut up” and jumped onto Mayor Steinberg’s desk.
At one point, an attendee pulled out his phone and directed everyone in the room to point their cell phones like guns toward city council members. Then council members were asked whether this looked like a cell phone or a gun.
Mayor Steinberg was visibly frustrated, according to Xzavion Stevenson, a Sacramento State student who attended the meeting.
Stevenson is hopeful for reforms in policing, but thinks that long-term change is out of reach.
“I’m happy to experience it, and be a part of it,” Stevenson said. “But I don’t think change will happen.”
South Sacramento activist Pastor Les Simmons, of the South Sacramento Christian Center, was calm and focused at city hall where protesters filled the lobby while police guarded the entrance to the council chamber and at times chanted “F–k the police” and “20 bullets, murder!”
“Black pain runs very deep,” Simmons said. “Sacramento needs an outlet, and the community needs to come together.”
Simmons emphasized the importance of multiple communities participating and being aware of racial disparities.
“Everyone needs to come together, including the UC Davis community,” Simmons said. “We need solutions, we need system change, we need policy change.”
Stevante Clark later told ABC10’s Frances Wang that he owes Mayor Steinberg an apology and called for unity to combat systemic issues like over-policing, gang violence and poverty, and further called on protesters to stop demonstrating at the Golden 1 Center. Stevante Clark wants community resource centers created for at-risk youth to be available 24 hours, and believes resources like video games can attract youth, helping keep them off the streets.
Muhammed Ikharo, a fourth-year computer science major, did not attend the protests, but thinks they were necessary to get public attention.
“If you aren’t affected by [protests], then what would you expect to change,” Ikharo said. “You have to make people uncomfortable, you have to make people start talking about this.”
Ikharo is a basketball fan and believes the advocacy coming from the NBA players is good.
“One thing I appreciate about [the Kings and Celtics] PSA is stressing the idea of accountability,” Ikharo said. “I definitely appreciate the way the Kings are using their platform for positive change.”
Ikharo mentioned that he has tickets to an upcoming Kings game, and if a protest happened, he would not be upset and would join in.
“I am a black man in America… what if this would have happened to me, how would my family be affected?” Ikharo said. “Stephon has all this support and he’s not here to see it.”
The Kings and Boston Celtics issued a Public Service Announcement shortly after the shooting. In it, the Kings called for accountability.
“We will not shut up and dribble,” said Garrett Temple of the Kings, responding to a recent comment made by Fox News host Laura Ingraham.
The two teams warmed up with shirts bearing “Accountability. We are one.” on the front, and #StephonClark on the back, one week after the fatal shooting.
Christie believes it is critical for young people and college students to keep participating in this movement.
“I think more than anything, young folks are going to be the next generation to lead us,” Christie said. “It’s important that young folks get out and speak, and they let their voice be heard. You see the march in Washington to the marches here, the more we do that, the more we’re heard, the more we galvanize, the greater voice we have.”
The Build. Black. Coalition slogan is “This is a movement, not a moment,” and this is an important moment in history in the struggle to eliminate anti-blackness, according to Berry Accius, founder and CEO of Voice of the Youth, a Sacramento organization aimed at helping at-risk youth.
“This is the breaking point, the moment that people like myself have been talking [about], the empowerment of black people, no longer get looked at like I’m crazy,” Accius said. “This is a moment where even organizations like the Kings have to recognize this attitude that people have with anti-blackness.”
Anti-blackness has historically dominated the United States, but still pervades society today, according to Accius.
“It’s now happening in real time. You have the Donald Trump era, Dreamers, you have things going on locally in our schools,” Accius said.
Accius maintains that younger generations and college students have a role to play in this fight for justice and equity.
“Continue to make their voices heard, continue to scream loud, let people know this is not an isolated incident,” Accius said. “They’ve had moments and movements at UC Davis […] for college students, it’s not about looking at this moment as something that’s going to go away, let’s look at this moment as something we can build on.”
UC Davis poet mentors from Sacramento Area Youth Speaks led the “Weapons as Words” workshop, which intended to help attendees explore and improve their writing ability by reflecting on their lives.
SAYS works in areas that are traditionally marginalized from city resources, including Meadowview, where Stephon Clark was shot.
This type of work is not new, according to Vajra Watson, the director of research and policy for equity at UC Davis and the founder of SAYS.
“We consider ourselves part of the community that was struck by the police brutality and police violence against Stephon Clark,” Watson said.
Watson noted the recent emergence of young leaders recently that should be honored, but Watson is concerned that institutions of higher learning do not offer enough courses on community organizing and scholar activism.
“One of my concerns for this generations is how they are being trained, and how do we turn this into a movement, not a moment,” Watson said. “I think the movement aspect of it needs to come with some educational prowess.”
SAYS will be presenting at 2018 annual meeting of American Educational Research Association this month, one of the largest education conferences in the world. SAYS, according to Watson, has influenced colleagues in the education field.
“A lot of other faculty and colleagues from other universities want to know how they can have a model similar to SAYS at their university or their community college,” Watson said. “Because it’s a really unique way to connect our education and this liberatory pedagogy in a way that holds the university accountable to the community in innovative ways.”
SAYS program coordinator Patrice Hill said that younger generations are taking a different approach to activism and that the use of social media could be a reason.
“College students rely heavily on social media as a basic way to communicate and I also think they’re using social media as a form of activism,” Hill said. “Not everyone can be on the frontline, but spreading that message saying you’re not going to take it anymore, reposting messages, it’s all a part of ending the over-policing of black and brown communities.”
Hill spoke of the demonstrations and protests that followed the police shooting of Clark and contends that the pressure for change is mounting.
“You can see from the [special] city council meeting Tuesday night, there is going to be no more politely asking to be treated to be treated with human rights, we’re going to take those rights,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, people are tired of asking.”
Written by: Bobby John — firstname.lastname@example.org