Tag Archives: #BlackLivesMatter

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

Recent Anti-racism letters in the Benicia Herald

Collecting our thoughts here on the BenIndy…

By Roger Straw, June 29, 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 is 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, and a few from the Vallejo Times-Herald(And check out Benicia Black Lives Matter: Our Voices, also published here and in the Benicia Herald.)

Benicia Herald letters on racism
Date Author Link to letter
Sunday, June 27, 2021 Brandon Greene Equity Training & Critical Race Theory – Open Letter to Solano County Board of Supervisors – Board discussion ‘disappointing but not surprising’.
Sunday, June 27, 2021 Craig Snider Reflections on Systemic Racism and White Privilege – We Can Do Better.
Friday, June 25, 2021 June Mejias Fairytale? Myth? Lie – (The children are watching & listening) – Definitions for Our Times.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021 Carrie Rehak I Can’t Breathe – Refinery fumes, George Floyd and COVID-19.
Sunday, June 13, 2021 Kathy Kerridge Implicit Bias or Outright Racism – Racism is alive and well in Benicia.
Sunday, June 13, 2021 Jean Walker Shine a Light on Solano County Sheriff – Open letter to Board of Supervisors.
Sunday, May 23, 2021 Roger Straw Intensive Care for Benicia – I See You Differently Now – A white American’s deepening awareness of Black lives.
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.)

California launches first-in-nation taskforce to study reparations for Black Americans

The committee’s first meeting marks the beginning of a two-year process to address the harms of slavery and systemic racism

The Rev Dr Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon Chapel AME Church holds his weekly Reparations March in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph: Reuters
The Guardian, by staff and agency, June 1, 2021

A first-in-the-country taskforce to study and recommend reparations for African Americans held its inaugural meeting in California on Tuesday, launching a two-year process to address the harms of slavery and systemic racism.

The meeting of the first state reparations committee in the US coincided with a visit by Joe Biden to Oklahoma, during which the president marked the centenary of the Tulsa race massacre and commemorated the hundreds of Black Americans who were killed by a white mob in a flourishing district known as the “Black Wall Street”. It also comes just over a year after the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota.

A federal slavery reparations bill passed out of the House judiciary committee in April, but it faces an uphill battle to becoming law. The bill was first introduced in Congress in 1989 and refers to the failed government effort to provide 40 acres (16 hectares) of land to newly freed slaves as the civil war wound down.

California’s secretary of state, Shirley Weber, who as a state assemblywoman authored the state legislation creating the taskforce, noted the solemnity of the occasion as well as the opportunity to right a historic wrong that continues today, in the form of large racial disparities in wealth, health and education. African Americans make up just 6% of California’s population yet were 30% of an estimated 250,000 people experiencing homelessness who sought help in 2020.

“Your task is to determine the depth of the harm, and the ways in which we are to repair that harm,” said Weber, whose sharecropper parents were forced to leave the south.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who signed the bill into law last year, issued a formal apology to Native American tribal leaders in 2019. He also announced the creation of a council to examine the state’s role in campaigns to exterminate and exploit indigenous people in the state.

Critics have said that California was not a slaveholding state and should not have to study reparations, or pay for it. But Weber said the state is an economic powerhouse that can point the way for a federal government that has been unable to address the issue. It would not replace any reparations agreed to by the federal government.

In 1988, Ronald Reagan signed legislation providing $20,000 in redress and a formal apology to every surviving Japanese American incarcerated during the second world war.

Members of the taskforce pointed out that Black Americans have heard all their lives that they need to improve themselves, yet the truth is that they have been held back by outright racism and discriminatory laws that prevented them from getting conventional bank loans and buying homes.

Slavery may not have flourished in California as it did in southern states, they said, but African Americans were still treated harshly. Their neighborhoods in San Francisco and Los Angeles were razed in the name of development.

The nine taskforce members, appointed by Newsom and leaders of the legislature, include the descendants of slaves who are now prominent lawyers, academics and politicians.

Steven Bradford, a taskforce member and state senator, said he would like to model a reparations program on the GI bill, allowing for free college and assistance with home-buying.

“We have lost more than we have ever taken from this country,” Bradford said. “We have given more than has ever been given to us.”

 

Solano Sheriff to seek reelection, despite controversy

JohnGlidden.com, by Scott Morris, May 28, 2021
Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara. (Courtesy Elect Thomas A. Ferrara Sheriff-Coroner 2022).

VALLEJO – Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara announced on Friday that he would run for reelection in 2022, seeking another four-year term after 10 years in the position.

Ferrara has faced recent controversy after it was revealed that several deputies posted symbols of the Three Percenter anti-government militia on social media. Ferrara declined to investigate the extent of extremism in his department, falsely said the FBI cleared the deputies of association with extremist groups, and has faced calls for new oversight of his office.

In a video message posted on Facebook Friday morning, Ferrara touted the support of the deputies’ union and the correctional officers’ union. “Now more than ever Solano County needs proven leadership,” Ferrara said. “I have shown this type of leadership through multiple disasters, civil unrest and the pandemic, which we’ve all experienced in the last few years.”

Ferrara was appointed sheriff in 2012 after his predecessor retired. He won his first election unopposed in 2014 and fended off challenges from sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Snedeker and Fairfield police Lt. Dan Marshall in 2018.

But Ferrara has faced political controversy and protest in recent months after an investigative report revealed that three high-profile members of his staff had openly displayed Three Percenter emblems on social media pages.

They included Sgt. Roy Stockton, a Vacaville councilmember who was endorsed by Ferrara, Sgt. Cully Pratt, the department’s former public information officer, SWAT team member Sgt. Ty Pierce, and Deputy Dale Matsuoka, the department’s homeless outreach coordinator.

In response to the revelations, Ferrara said in a statement that the employees named “all serve this agency and this community with passion and dedication.”

Ferrara argued that the deputies had intended to show support for the 2nd Amendment, but Three Percenter groups often call for violent resistance to the federal government if they interpret restrictions on gun possession as against their interpretation of the Constitution. Three Percenter groups have been implicated in bombing and kidnapping plots and the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The sheriff later defended the deputies by writing in letters to Benicia Black Lives Matter and the Solano County Democratic Central Committee that he “consulted with the FBI, who confirmed none of my employees are members of any extremist organizations.”

But the FBI disputed Ferrara’s statement, saying that it did not track participation in extremist groups nor is it “sufficient basis for an FBI investigation.”

Unsatisfied by the sheriff’s response, members of Benicia Black Lives Matter have called for the Solano County Board of Supervisors to create an oversight board of the sheriff’s office.

But only Supervisor Monica Brown supported even discussing the suggestion. Meanwhile, the Solano County Republicans have organized in opposition to any new oversight.

Benicia Black Lives Matter has continued to protest the sheriff’s office, including staging a rally outside the sheriff’s office on the anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.


Scott Morris is an independent journalist in Oakland covering policing, protest and civil rights. If you appreciate his work please consider making a contribution.