Tag Archives: Anti-racism

Benicia Black Lives Matter – CALL TO ACTION!

Do you believe Black lives matter? Then answer this call to action

By email, October 29, 2021

Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM) is a values-driven, grassroots, volunteer organization that is dedicated to affirming and improving Black lives in Benicia and beyond. Designing and monitoring accountability structures within local government and institutions—including law enforcement—is an essential part of achieving this mission.

Incidents demonstrating a sustained pattern of racial bias, excessive force, and misconduct within the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, along with Sheriff Tom Ferrara’s open unwillingness to observe accountability and transparency norms, are too numerous to recount here. These allegations of excessive, often racialized violence as well as documented support among his staff for anti-government and white supremacist ideologies, together with the sheriff’s refusal to discipline his staff for misconduct even when recommended by neutral investigatory bodies such Internal Affairs, should concern every Solano County citizen.

When it became clear that the sheriff was not meeting the requirements of his position, BBLM initiated a cross-organizational call to action spanning multiple municipalities, collecting volunteers and allies across many diverse groups and organizations. This coalition now requests help from this same community—your help—at the upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting, to voice our shared concerns and call for change.

This Tuesday, November 2, at 9 am, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will meet to consider utilizing Assembly Bill 1185 to create a community-based civilian oversight board for the sheriff’s office. Such a board would provide a communication channel between the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff’s office, allowing the supervisors to respond to non-criminal complaints from their constituents when the sheriff’s office is involved; create a process to file complaints independent of the sheriff’s office when public trust has eroded; give our community the reassurance that review processes are thorough and bad actors are held accountable for misconduct; strengthen the sheriff and his staff’s relationships with the community they are in service to; and improve trust in law enforcement in Solano County in general.

Anyone can attend the board meeting in person or via Zoom; the details to attend are available on the Solano County website (solanocounty.com). You may also submit written comments to clerk@solanocounty.com.

BBLM strongly encourages anyone who has ever considered themselves to be an ally, supporter, or accomplice in the march toward equity for all in this city, this county, and this country to take this opportunity to be heard. Solano citizens cannot have confidence in Sheriff Ferrara’s leadership and authority until there is an open, fair discussion about the value a community-based oversight board could create when confidence in Sheriff Ferrara and the sheriff’s office is at an all-time low. We all deserve more.

At the meeting, or in your email, ask supervisors to authorize county staff to move forward with research and evaluation of an oversight board, or to allow Solano voters to weigh in.

This is your chance to be heard, and to be a part of making change happen here in Solano County, in support of Black lives, and in support of the community and the spaces we share together. Please act.


Benicia Black Lives Matter, BBLM

Latest ‘Our Voices’ – Racism is real in Benicia


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

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.


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.)

‘Our Voices’ – Personal witness to a pervasive undercurrent of racism in Benicia Schools


From BeniciaBlackLivesMatter.com
[See also: About BBLM]

“In an ideal world, public schools should inspire a love of learning in all young people, regardless of what they look like, where they are from, or what their family or cultural beliefs are. Educational staff should be inclusive, sensitive, and warm in order to promote a healthy learning environment. That is not what I witnessed at the Benicia schools…”

June 11, 2021

Non-white woman
Age 32
Employed in Benicia for 4 years

As a member of the working community of Benicia, I had the opportunity to do business with with the Benicia School District. Over the last five years, I observed and got to know many staff members from several of the schools. My first impression of the Benicia Schools was they are comfortable, communal environments. However, within a short time I noticed a pervasive undercurrent of racism. I witnessed several staff members, particularly among the support staff, make casual comments to each other and sometimes to parents about students and families of color that were both derogatory and clearly based in biased beliefs. Although I am not white, my ethnic background was not visually obvious, so I was considered part of the “privileged” group and overheard their conversations without any filters being applied. After noticing the first few comments, I began to listen for it, and was shocked at how frequently demeaning things were said or done.

Although I have been witness to occasional racist comments or acts being said or done at other venues, what I saw and heard at the schools was far more offensive. It was blatant. And there was an assumption that this behavior is appropriate and normal. The engaged staff did not mask or hide their comments. They did not lower their voices. The principal’s offices, which are typically right in the midst of the main office where much of this was taking place, were sometimes wide open and the administration easily within earshot. Staff and people of the community were regularly walking in and out of the area, all within hearing range of the comments being said. And yet it continued uninterrupted. I found myself feeling increasingly uncomfortable and afraid for the students and families of color.

These are some of the things I witnessed:

The Benicia School District accepts and encourages the attendance of transfer students (students who live outside of the District) in order to keep the schools open and maintain attendance numbers to increase State funding, yet they are not readily accepted at the school sites. Some of the administrative staff handling these transfers assume that non-white transfers, particularly Black or Brown ones, come from Vallejo. In fact, “Vallejo” seemed to be used as a code word for non-white or poor. On the other hand, white transfer students are never presumed to be from Vallejo, even when that is their hometown. Regardless of where the families live, rather than being welcomed, transfer students are seen as “sucking up resources” and getting an education at the “expense of Benicia tax payers. There seems to be a firm belief that transfer families should be grateful, rather than we should be grateful that the transfer students are bringing additional revenues to our district, or more importantly, these are individual children with individual circumstances, all of whom should be welcomed and embraced.

Non-white students and their families are frequently referred to as “ghetto.”

White parents seemed to disproportionately report the behavior of non-white parents at student drop off. Sometimes I saw them threaten to call the police for common traffic grievances such as driving too fast, arriving late, or blocking traffic, all of which are experienced and/or committed by nearly everyone sometime during the school year. I rarely, if ever, witnessed a parent of color complaining about the same things.

Christian-based holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, are often celebrated in the classrooms, alienating non-Christian students. When the principal at one school made an effort to be culturally sensitive and teachers were asked not to put up Christmas trees and similar decorations in classrooms, the mandate was largely disregarded.

Similarly, traditional curriculum that includes stereotyped versions of certain ethnic groups are still widely used. A few years ago, the District made an effort to remove books, references and curriculum that are inaccurate or offensive, much of which was ignored in favor of the historical curriculum, such as the 4th grade Mission Project or assigning “tribe” names to desk groups.

Black students (particularly boys) are frequently singled out by teachers and are far more likely to be sent out of class to work alone than their white counterparts. Also, African American boys were more likely to be treated as older than their peers. I even heard that a white female teacher in her 50s told many coworkers that she was being sexually harassed by a ten year old boy because he commented that he liked her outfits. She said he must have learned it from his father, an African American man she also perceived to be “aggressive.”

These are just a few of the many examples of prejudiced and intolerant behavior I noted. It saddens me to know that there is a dark underbelly of racism that runs through the schools in this beautiful community. This is where our youth are learning lifelong lessons – both academically and socially. I only hope that the school district wakes up from its complacency and implements some serious equity training and consequences for the staff members who continue to cultivate an imaginary and dangerous hierarchy amongst the staff, families and students.

Previous ‘Our Voices’ stories here on the BenIndy at
Benicia Black Lives Matter – Our Voices
     or on the BBLM website at