Tag Archives: #BBLM

Benicia Black Lives Matter calls on Solano County Supervisors for sheriff oversight

[BenIndy editor: reaching for “balanced coverage” and controversy, this Times-Herald article allows a right-wing conspiratorialist too much latitude in framing the discussion.  Benicia Black Lives Matter members’ substantive Tuesday comments are covered only briefly in one paragraph (#10).  The article then gives 5 paragraphs to the Sheriff’s defenders, including an outrageous and unsubstantiated attack on BBLM.  The article then concludes with 4 paragraphs highlighting two BBLM members’ responses to the wild and crazy off-topic charges.  The discussion at Solano BOS is a serious one, and our coverage should focus primarily if not exclusively on real issues.  – R.S.] 

Solano County Supervisors hear opposition, support for sheriff oversight

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Katy St. Clair, May 12, 2021

Far-right ideology was linked to department

In the wake of revelations that members of the Solano County Sheriff’s Department has shown support for far-right ideologies, several county residents called in the supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

Some expressed their opposition and others voiced their support for agendizing a discussion about creating an oversight board to monitor the sheriff’s office.

In an internal email obtained by the Times-Herald, the Solano County Republican Central Committee organized its members to call into the meeting with talking points in support of the sheriff’s office. Members were told not to identify themselves as Republicans, but several callers expressed the points covered in the email.

According to an investigation by the nonprofit newsroom Open Vallejo, a deputy and two sergeants of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office promoted a far-right militia “for years” that is linked to terrorist plots and the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol in Washington D.C.

After Open Vallejo’s story, which featured far-right Three Percenter symbols taken from public social media accounts and other online sources belonging to members of the sheriff’s office, Benicia Black Lives Matter wrote a letter to the supervisors asking for a “full investigation both at the county level and at the city level” to make sure that “policies and procedures — including those focused on recruitment and disciplinary actions — are in place to actively expel these extremists from the ranks of law enforcement.”

The letter was also sent to Solano County Sheriff Thomas Ferrara.

The Three Percenters have been dubbed a “radical anti-government group” by organizations such as the SPLC and the FBI. The FBI also claims that many members of these groups are in law enforcement, according to CBS News.

In February, BBLM asked the board of supervisors to condemn right-wing extremism and conduct a full investigation into Open Vallejo’s allegations. They also asked the board to consider creating an independent oversight committee, citing a new law that went into effect in September of last year.

Assembly Bill 1185 makes it easier for supervisors or voters to establish independent oversight boards to oversee activities within the sheriff’s department. Such boards would also have subpoena powers — something that many independent police oversight boards do not.

On Tuesday, several members of BBLM called in to support the creation of an oversight board, or the very least have a discussion about it. One member said that learning that there were people who supported Three Percenter ideology in the sheriff’s department “caused alarm for me” and said this was a public safety issue. Another caller said there is now fear and suspicion about the sheriff’s office and therefore civilian oversight is warranted.

Callers who opposed agendizing any discussion of oversight said it would create more government bureaucracy.

“Since when has government solved anything?” asked one caller.

Two callers referred to BBLM as “left wing anarchists and Marxists.” A man who identified himself as ex-law enforcement, said that “out-of-town forces are trying to bring their dysfunction to Solano County and to disrupt the peace that we’ve had here.”

Another caller named Steve said that the mass media makes it “almost impossible” to get all the facts.

“We have seen cops everywhere get charged with violations of protocol… Some cops are incompetent and get removed. Most of the time the accusations are inaccurate,” he said.

According to Bay City News and confirmed by the Times-Herald, Benicia Black Lives Matter received a response from Sheriff Ferrara. In the letter, Ferrara said he was “sickened” as he watched the Jan. 6 attack and that he can confirm that none of his employees were present on that day.

However, the sheriff’s letter did admit that the far-right images posted on social media by his officers were “disappointing” but were “not in themselves a crime…or in violation of (then current) policy.”

Further, Sheriff Ferrara said he had arranged for extremist ideology training for all of his staff, including himself.

Ferrara also told BBLM that he consulted with the FBI, which he claims, “confirmed none of my employees are members of any extremist organizations.”

When Open Vallejo attempted to verify this, the FBI instead called Ferrara’s statement into question. In a statement, spokesperson Gina Swankie told the newsroom that “a group which may espouse domestic extremist ideology is not illegal in and of itself, no matter how offensive their views may be, and membership in any group is neither tracked nor is sufficient basis for an FBI investigation.”

Former special agent for the FBI in San Francisco John Bennett told Open Vallejo that it is possible that the FBI would inform the head of an agency that there was an inquiry into their organization, and that “a disciplined and honorable leader of an agency would not make a public statement contrary to what they know is the truth about the status of an FBI inquiry.” He also added that “if the Bureau comes out later with contrary statements, that department and its leadership will lose credibility.”

Supervisor Monica Brown made a motion at a previous meeting to agendize discussion of oversight of the sheriff’s department but no one seconded it. Brown could not be reached for comment at press time.

BBLM members dispute the idea that they are “Marxists” or far left radicals. One caller from the organization said that she is “not a Marxist, I am a mother of two” and said she called in because of her children.

“I’m confused why we are not having a conversation (about this),” she said, adding that they are just asking for a discussion to be raised about oversight.

BBLM member Brandon Greene, a civil rights attorney, told the Times-Herald that he too is concerned about public safety and security for residents and he is not an “out-of-town Marxist.”

“My property tax bill says otherwise,” he said.

Anti-racism letters in the Benicia Herald

Collecting our thoughts here on the BenIndy…

By Roger Straw, May 12, 2021

Check out the growing number of letters sent in to our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald: strong calls for racial justice, offers of praise where deserved, decrying of local incidents of racism, and opposition to racial bias and expressions of white supremacy.

Below are today’s listing of collected letters.  Check back regularly for new letters at the BenIndy Anti-Racism Letters page.

ANTI-RACISM LETTERS IN THE BENICIA HERALD

Benicia is definitely NOT the happy little totally progressive, inclusive community many of us have long thought it was.  Racism is real in Benicia.  See the following letters which appeared in the print edition of the Benicia Herald.  (See also Benicia Black Lives Matter: Our Voices, also published in the Benicia Herald.)

Benicia Herald letters on racism
Date Author Link to letter
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 Mark Christian Silence is Complicity – America not a place of liberty & justice for all, Sheriff and Solano supervisors complicit.
Sunday, May 2, 2021 C. Bart Sullivan, Esq. A World Without Prejudice Requires Vigilance – Early childhood innocence, BLM, Local writer with head in sand.
Friday, April 30, 2021 Vicki Byrum Dennis SURJ / BBLM Study & Action Course – How can whites become allies? History, racial injustice is systemic. SURJ invitation.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 Susan Street Off the Mark As Usual – Local writer missing the mark, praising City leadership, racism is real.
Sunday, April 25, 2021 Jean Walker What Can I Do to Make Racism Go Away in Benicia? – Racism is systemic, white privilege, pleased with City Resolution 20, critical of appointments, SURJ.
Friday, April 23, 2021 Nathalie Christian White Supremacy Is Not a Cancer, It Is a Choice – Jan. 6 in D.C., Sheriff’s deputies, call to action.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 Benicia Mayor Steve Young On the Hate-Crime & Arrest Last Weekend – Racism in Benicia, Raley’s incident, racial bias conscious and unconscious, City took first steps Equity Mgr, we can do better.
Sunday, April 18, 2021 Ralph Dennis Two Peas in a Pod – Raley’s incident, Sheriff investigation 2 peas in a pod.  Be an ally, don’t blame BLM or City hiring of Equity Mgr.
Contact the Benicia Herald – write your own letter!

To add your voice, write to Benicia Herald editor Galen Kusic at beniciaherald@gmail.com.  Note that the Benicia Herald’s online edition is not currently being maintained.  To subscribe to the print edition, email beniciacirculation@gmail.com or phone 707-745-6838.  Main phone line is 707-745-0733; fax is 707-745-8583.  Mail or stop by in person at 820 First St., Benicia, 94510.  (Not sure of days and hours.)

About Benicia Black Lives Matter

Community Members Advocating for Racial Justice and Systemic Change

Benicia Magazine, by Gethsemane Moss Ed.D, February 1, 2021
Gethsemane Moss, Ed.D in face mask with Black Lives Matter T-shirt
Gethsemane Moss, Ed.D.

“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

The creation of the Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM) community organization was formed after the death of George Floyd, an incident witnessed by millions of people across the United States and world. Floyd’s passing was a tipping point that stirred up past and present negative emotions for many. For some people of color, it was a harsh reminder of a different reality of navigating systems met with dimensions of positionality dealing with race, gender, and socio-economic disparities within communities and the linkage of policy, education, economic opportunities, and access.

The founder of BBLM, Nimat Shakoor-Grantham acted and sparked a community conversation to shed light on her experience as a Black woman in Benicia and to raise awareness about the experiences of other Black community members as well. “We aim to raise the awareness for the citizens of Benicia about the biases that happen in town and how it impacts the Black residents of Benicia,” says Shakoor-Grantham. Shakoor-Grantham goes on to share, “The main objective is to bring Benicia closer together in an authentic way; not by saying I don’t see color and everything is good. Benicia is a beautiful place but has an ugly underside that needs to be addressed.”

The BBLM community organization has core teams: City Government Action Team, Education Action Team, Cultural Arts Action Team, Awareness Team, and the New Member Committee. BBLM members include a diverse group of residents who are parents, retirees, business owners, lawyers, doctors, specialized licensed professionals, and recent Benicia High School graduates now attending college. All are dedicated to working with local Benicia leaders in shaping systems and policies that present every Black person and other marginalized groups, the social, economic, creative, and political power to thrive.

Education Action Team member and Benicia High School graduate, La Paula Parker shared, “Being a Black young woman in Benicia is very difficult and exhaustive at times. BBLM is significant because it requires Benicia to wake up and actually acknowledge the reality of our community and the larger world.” Parker goes on to say “education is one of the best ways for us to grow as a community. Education at its core allows us to understand one another, empathize, and love each other. I hope to better incorporate ethnic studies curriculum into the Benicia school system.”

Benicia High School graduate, Branden Ducharme, was one of the BBLM team members who made a presentation at the Benicia City Council, resulting in the passing of Resolution 20. Ducharme states, “BBLM is responsible, with the help of Benicia’s city council, for the passing of Resolution 20, which included many great things, the most notable being the creation of an Equity and Diversity Manager position within the city. When asked about the connection to the National Black Lives Matter Organization Ducharme shared, “I can assure you that whatever negative assumptions you may have about us or our agenda are probably far from the reality of our work. BBLM is tailored to Benicia in two main ways. The first is that it is a grassroots organization with currently no official affiliation with other BLM organizations, though we do value many of the same principles. The second being that every single member as of right now is either a current Benicia resident or has been one in the past.”

BBLM is providing Professional Development that started in January 2021 and extends through March. The workshop series, Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ), takes participants on a journey to examine the history of white supremacy and resistance movements. The workshop aims to help build the attendee’s ability to effectively act and advocate on behalf of social justice. This free training series was open to members of the Benicia community. BBLM also partnered with the Benicia Library and has established a Black Lives Matter Collection curated reading list.

You can reach out to Benicia Black Lives Matter social media or email them at the following:

Benicia Black Lives Matter letter opposes School Board recall effort

Benicia Black Lives Matter Statement on the Board of Trustees Recall Effort

February 2021   [Download PDF or jpg version of this letter.  See also beniciablacklivesmatter.weebly.com]

We, the members of Benicia Black Lives Matter, stand in solidarity with those who oppose the campaign to recall school board trustees Zada and Maselli.

A campaign that is calling for students to return their families to in-person learning that fails to center the perspectives and experiences of Black families is one that should not be given weight or consideration. Indeed, both the economic consequences of the pandemic and the physical consequences of the pandemic are disproportionately shouldered by Black families. A recent New York Times article[1] and a CDC study[2] both drew attention to the phenomenon of mostly white parents advocating for reopening of schools even as their families and their children are less at risk. From the New York Times article, “Even as more districts reopen their buildings and President Biden joins the chorus of those saying schools can safely resume in-person education, hundreds of thousands of Black parents say they are not ready to send their children back.”

The data from the CDC study shows that 62.3% of white parents strongly or somewhat agreed that schools should reopen in-person for all students in the fall, compared to 46% of Black parents and 50.2% of Hispanic parents. The New York Times article goes on to say; “That reflects both the disproportionately harsh consequences the virus has visited on nonwhite Americans and the profound lack of trust that Black families have in school districts, a longstanding phenomenon exacerbated by the pandemic”.

The response to the pandemic and the current disparities in Benicia Schools represent two separate instances of government failing to deliver equity to Black Families. The recall of school board trustees Zada and Maselli will cost upwards of $300,000. This money could instead be put towards improving ventilation systems in all schools within BUSD, as well as protective equipment and modifications of classrooms for when it is truly safe for students and staff to return. Not only is the district considering asking students to return, even as the pandemic is raging and the virus is mutating, but money that could otherwise be utilized to shore up the infrastructure is instead being contemplated for a wasteful political grab that does not have the interests or safety of Black Families in mind.

For the first time in its history the City of Benicia will soon have an equity officer and a tangible plan for seeking to achieve equity. The School district is engaged in a similar conversation. This campaign is a stark example of how privilege and political access play out to the detriment of vulnerable communities. It is as divisive as it is thinly veiled. It cannot be allowed to succeed. The members of Benicia Black Lives Matter fully support all of our board trustees and oppose the campaign to recall trustees Zada and Maselli as it is not representative of the interests of our Black Community.

In Partnership,
Benicia Black Lives Matter

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About

Benicia Black Lives Matter is a grassroots community group organized to address anti-Black racism in the city of Benicia. There is a lack of Black representation across City leadership, departments, and voluntary boards. The lack of Black representation tells a story of our complacency as a community and more so, the impact on our Black Benicians lived experience. The good news is, we can rebuild the City of Benicia into a better Benicia, one commitment and one change at a time – and we have a strategy to do so. Our Strategy: Actively Commit to Change. The City of Benicia must commit to a specific vision of what a better, more inclusive and equitable future looks like. For additional information see beniciablacklivesmatter.com.


[1]  nytimes.com/2021/02/01/world/one-thing-thats-missing-in-the-reopening-plans-of-us-schools-the-trust-of-black-families.html 
[2] cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6949a2.htm