Tag Archives: Benicia Black Lives Matter

Benicia Back-to-School Backpack & Supply Giveaway this Thur. Aug. 12

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This Thursday (8/12, 4-6pm) Benicia Black Lives Matter will be handing out backpacks for kids in elementary, middle and high school. Please stop by City Park Gazebo if your kiddo needs one! We will be giving them away until supplies run out.

While you’re there, enjoy some jams with DJ Irrataetion and food from the Trap Meals on Wheels food truck!

We will also be distributing food boxes courtesy of Food is Free Solano.

Website: beniciablacklivesmatter.com
Facebook: facebook.com/BeniciaBLM

Latest ‘Our Voices’ – Racism is real in Benicia


BENICIA BLACK LIVES MATTER
…OUR VOICES…

From BeniciaBlackLivesMatter.com
[See also: About BBLM]

“I was horrified to witness such abject racism in my own city…”

July 13, 2021

Chris Kerz
70 year old white man
6 year Benicia resident

I consider myself a good person. I try to treat everyone with respect and compassion. I have friends of different cultures, different races, different socio-economic levels, and different age groups. I generally greet everyone in my path with the same friendliness and warmth. I know that racism exists everywhere, but I never expected to witness such viciousness in my own quiet community.

During the Covid months, like many people, I took at least one brisk walk every day to get my blood flowing and maintain some sense of normalcy. On this particular October 2020 day, I was walking through the Ninth Street Park from the north end around 3pm. As I approached the boat launch I saw a Black gentleman, possibly in his mid-40s, seemingly also out for a walk, heading in my direction. When he was about 20 feet from me and before I was able to greet him, I began to hear a low chanting of what sounded like the word “N****r” coming from the parking lot. I looked around. The parking lot had several cars in it, but from where I was, I couldn’t see any people in the cars. Then the chanting stopped.

At first I thought I was mistaken. That didn’t seem possible, particularly since I couldn’t see the source. We both circled around, going opposite directions, and neared the parking lot a second time. As we again approached each other, I heard it – the same chant, only louder. This time there was no mistaking the content or intent. The voices were men, and there was more than one. I met the eyes of the Black man and mouthed, “I’m sorry!” which, of course, he could not see through my mask. He sent me a furtive glance, but I couldn’t interpret what he was communicating either – Fear? Anger? Suspicion? I only know that I felt a terrible sense of anger and disappointment. And above all, I was shocked. The targeted man picked up his pace and headed towards the downtown area.

In the meantime, I doubled back through the parking lot one more time to see if I could identify the perpetrators. There were several people milling about and about a dozen cars in the lot, so it was hard to tell. A moment later, a vehicle with at least two people in it pulled out of a parking space and headed downtown. The driver exercised the appropriate caution and speed for exiting a parking lot, raising no particular suspicion other than his/her timing. Still, I thought it was likely they were the chanters. By the time they were clear of other cars, they were too far away for me to read the license plate, and even if I could, I knew that I had no evidence that the people in the car were involved in any way. My opportunity to identify anyone was lost.

And so I did the only thing I could. I retold the story of this horrifying event to my family and friends, not only as a witness, but in hopes that other Benicia residents acknowledge that racism does exist here and that we must be proactive in opposing it.

In hindsight, I would have liked to have been more of an active ally. I could have turned around and caught up with the man and asked if he needed any help and/or walked with him. I could have run through the parking lot looking for the sources of the ugliness and excoriated them, or at least obtained a description to call the police. I could have done a lot of things. I just hope for two things by making my story public: the man who was accosted will realize that he was not alone in his pain; and that the people of Benicia will wake up to the fact that these horrible injustices do indeed happen in our community and should NEVER be tolerated.


Previous ‘Our Voices’ stories here on the BenIndy at
Benicia Black Lives Matter – Our Voices
     or on the BBLM website at
beniciablacklivesmatter.weebly.com/ourvoices

Report and photos – Benicia’s Juneteenth Freedom Celebration

Benicia Black Lives Matter Hosts First Annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration, June 19

Juneteenth Celebration in Benicia CA, June 19, 2021 – Brandon Greene, Co-founder of Benicia Black Lives Matter

By Vicki Byrum Dennis, with contributions from BBLM members

June 20, 2021 – More than 350 people joined together on Saturday at Benicia’s historic Camel Barns to celebrate the First Annual Juneteenth Freedom Day festival to be held in the city. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day enslaved individuals in Galveston, Texas were informed that slavery had been abolished and that they were freed persons.

Benicia Juneteenth 2021 – Left to right: BBLM Co-founder Nimat Shakoor-Grantham, Benicia Mayor Steve Young, Benicia Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager Dr. Maliika Chambers, and BBLM Co-founder Brandon L. Greene

Saturday’s celebration, sponsored by Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM), was filled with proclamations and resolutions from city officials, history presentations, a step performance, poetry and music as well as food and interesting wares from more than a dozen Black-owned businesses.

Visitors enjoy checking out the vendors’ tables [Credit: Benicia Black Lives Matter]
“We are delighted that so many people joined BBLM to celebrate this day, which to Blacks is our Fourth of July,” said Nimat Shakoor-Grantham, co-founder of BBLM and a behavioral therapist. The festival was planned long before anyone knew that President Joe Biden would sign into law the observation of Juneteenth as a national holiday just a few days earlier. “Because of the significance of what had just occurred in Washington, our celebration is doubly meaningful,” Shakoor-Grantham said.

Freedom Flag, raised over Benicia City Hall on June 17, 2021

Juneteenth activities in Benicia actually began on Friday, when the Juneteenth flag was raised over City Hall with City Council and BBLM members in attendance. On Saturday, Shakoor-Grantham and BBLM co-founder Brandon Greene started the program by sharing their stories of why they founded BBLM last summer. Galvanized by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black people, and united by their personal experiences of racism, slurs, discrimination and inequities in Benicia, they formed the grassroots community organization to address anti-Black racism in Benicia. During the program, both co-founders spoke of the need for all Benicians to get and stay active in the work to end racism in Benicia and to speak out when they observe it.

Brandon Greene, Co-founder, Benicia Black Lives Matter

“It is important to put today’s event into the correct political and social context,” said Greene, who is also Director of Racial and Economic Justice Program for ACLU of Northern California and an adjunct professor at UC Hasting School of Law. “We need to take this joyous energy of today and move forward to educate, to teach the real history of America, and to hold the city, the county and others accountable to disenfranchised people.”

Dr. Maliika Chambers, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager for the City of Benicia

Afterwards, Benicia Mayor Steve Young read an official proclamation from the city designating Juneteenth an official annual celebration for Benicia.  Dr. Maliika Chambers, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager for the City of Benicia, presented Resolution 20-103, which established the position she holds and created several important but as yet unrealized action items for the City to address serious inequities in civic representation and support for Black-owned businesses.

Bow Hammer Skins, Herb Ruffin (keyboard/”hammer”), Karese Young (viola/”bow”), Carlton Carey (drums/”skins”), Ryan Sample (bass/”big bow”)

The crowd then stood together and sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro National Anthem, played by the local jazz band Bow Hammer Skins.

The Omega Gents perform a step routine during the City of Benicia Inaugural Juneteenth Program at the Camel Barns on Saturday in Benicia.

After an energetic and commanding step performance by the Omega Gents, young mentees from a program for African American middle- and high-school boys sponsored by the Northern California Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, Robert Johnson presented the history of Juneteenth, long an important date for Black Americans, yet little mentioned in American history books.

Robert Johnson, Juneteenth history

“It came two years after the Emancipation Act was signed by President Lincoln and two months after the South surrendered, ending the Civil War,” Johnson said. “But Blacks continued to be enslaved despite the proclamation. It was only when Major General Gordon Granger told the citizens of Galveston, Texas, that legalized slavery in the United States had ended that Blacks there realized they were free. June 19 has long marked the occasion of freedom for Blacks in America.”

Johnson concluded by noting that while Juneteenth may represent freedom, the long, ongoing struggle for a more just and equitable living standard for all Americans, regardless of skin color, continues. Even after slavery was legally abolished, Black and African Americans suffered from sanctioned discrimination throughout the South and all of the U.S. through reconstruction and Jim Crow laws, which created and sustained inequities in education, housing, jobs, health care and much more—proving that the struggle is far from over.

Learn more about the work and goals of Benicia Black Lives Matter at beniciablacklivesmatter.weebly.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/BeniciaBLM

VIDEO: Benicia’s Juneteenth Festival

Benicia’s Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration, sponsored by Benicia Black Lives Matter

By Benicia videographer Dr. Constance Beutel, June 19, 2021

On June 19th, 2021, Benicia Black Lives Matter hosted the first City proclaimed Juneteenth Event in Benicia, California. The event was held at the Benicia Historical Museum.

Shortened version, 23 minutes
Full length version, 1 hour


See also Juneteenth in Benicia – It was a great celebration! (coverage by Richard Freedman of the Vallejo Times-Herald).