Tag Archives: #BBLM

‘Our Voices’ – A “positive note” following racial and traumatic incidents at Benicia schools over the years


From BeniciaBlackLivesMatter.com
[See also: About BBLM]

“My son loved school and learning. That is until he felt racially targeted and unprotected by the staff and administration.”

April 11, 2021

Black woman
Age – late 30s
Benicia resident for 10 years

My husband and I moved to Benicia from Vallejo because of the schools. It wasn’t about safety. We lived in a decent Vallejo neighborhood, and we were locals. I had attended school there myself, and had a reasonably good education and experience. The schools in Vallejo are integrated, and I always felt safe and connected. However, the schools in Benicia offered more resources for the classrooms, and more co-curricular and extra curricular activities. There were field trips and enrichment opportunities available in the Benicia schools that Vallejo couldn’t offer. And so we moved here.

My son started his school career in Benicia. He would come home every day practically bursting with the new things he learned. He loved to read, explore, calculate, analyze and memorize. He brought his joy of learning into everything we did. He woke up excited every morning, eager to go to school and ready to learn. It was a dream come true for any parent, and I was especially proud.

Then when he got to middle school something changed. It started with a juvenile verbal challenge between my son and another boy, who happened to be white. At first the argument was typical of 7th grade boys trying to show off. As it got more heated, the other boy pulled out the racial derogatives. He called my son the “N” word and a “black gorilla.” My son reciprocated with some angry words of his own, but did not resort to racially based insults. The verbal bashing was eventually interrupted by staff, and the boys were brought to the Vice Principal’s office.

The other boy’s mother and I were summoned to the office for a “chat.” I sat there with the woman, the counselor and the vice principal, listening to the boys retell their story. When it became clear that the other child had used racial slurs, his mother became indignant. She vehemently argued that her son couldn’t help himself. She claimed he had socialization issues that were the underlying cause of his behavior. Her argument became so passionate and her demeanor so aggressive that the staff members backed down. She eventually left the room in a huff with her son. My son received detention. Hers did not. It was the first time that my son did not feel protected or valued by the administration.

After that, things started to cascade. My son earned the reputation of being a goofball, and small things began to appear on his disciplinary record, things like, “throwing Cheetos,” “horseplay,” and “kicking someone’s backpack.” Although individually, these things are relatively insignificant, especially since they were done while joking around with his friends, each incident added demerits to my son’s record and his reputation grew. His attitude towards school began to change. He no longer looked forward to going, and his academics began to be affected.

There were more meetings with school officials. Sometimes, the school resource officer was asked to attend. Each time, my son was treated with a dismissive attitude by school authorities. Eventually, he was required to attend a SARB (School Attendance Review Board) meeting for his disciplinary issues. This was presided over by a judge. The judge looked over my son’s school record and kicked it out with a reprimand to the school for wasting his time. It was a small reprieve.

The final blow came when my son was overheard by a substitute teacher teasing his friend (a Black girl) about her weave, which is a hairstyle used frequently in Black culture. The middle aged white woman, misunderstanding his intent, sent my son to the office for “sexual harassment.” To add to the insult, the substitute confided her version of what happened to a white male teacher in his 30s, who, knowing about my son’s growing reputation, took it upon himself to run an informal investigation. He asked several girls whether they had experienced sexually charged or harassing comments from my son. I learned this from the teacher in question, and it added to my son’s feelings of betrayal and marginalization. Although the sexual harassment accusation was unfounded, it still ended up on his disciplinary record without our knowledge.

It was at this point that my husband and I made the difficult decision to pull our son out of Benicia Middle School. We settled on a local private school, but my son’s discipline record was called into question before he was admitted, particularly the part about his involvement in sexual harassment. I had to go back to Benicia Middle School to question the reason this unfounded incident was on his record and request a correction. I also needed a letter, clearing my son of this accusation so that he could move on. The Vice principal apologized, made the correction on the school records, and wrote a letter for me; but the damage was already done.

When my son started high school, we decided to give the Benicia schools another try. For a while, everything went smoothly. And then an incident occurred with another white woman substitute in English class. The class was reading “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which you may know contains some racially disparaging scenes. The teacher was having the students read passages aloud in preparation for discussion. When it came to reading the “N” word, several students, both white and Black, voiced that they were uncomfortable verbalizing this word when the use was clearly meant to dehumanize a Black character. At first the substitute insisted, but when met with continued student resistance, she relented, saying they could replace the unpalatable word with another word, such as “dog.” This upset my son and he spoke up – very passionately, I might add. When he discovered it useless to argue his point more, he took a walk so he could cool off. Meanwhile, the teacher called the office and claimed my son took an aggressive stance with her, and she felt uncomfortable with him being there. Upon returning to class my son was quickly sent to the office. When the administration looked into the incident, they concluded that he was not threatening in any way, but thought it would be best for him to remain in the office for the days she continued to substitute. Even though her claims were unsubstantiated, she refused to admit that she had offered the word “dog” as a replacement for the “N” word, despite the testimonies of several students. My thoughts were, “Here we are again.”

The pandemic called an end to the situation. My son did not have to attend school in person for the rest of his freshman or his sophomore year to date. And he has opted not to return for the remainder of this year. We support him. My son’s decision is based, not on the health threat of Covid 19, but on the lack of support he feels from the school administration.

These are only a few of the racial and traumatic incidents that have occurred at the schools over the years. Most have been undocumented without any repercussion to the offending parties. My child, like many others, has been left to filter, process, and internalize his pain and emotional distress, with little to no help from the schools.

I am saddened by and disappointed in the Benicia School District. What started as a wonderful opportunity to inspire and maximize my son’s academic potential was overshadowed by a continued lack of support and belief in my son’s capabilities. He is now another disillusioned student. I know my son is a passionate and intelligent young man, but instead of inspiring and guiding him towards leadership, the system has demonstrated time and again that his Black male passion must be extinguished. I feel like I have sent my child into a hostile environment for the sake of his education. I wanted to send him into a place that would give him the same nurturing guidance as we give in our home but I have been proven wrong time and again. His emotional and psychological distress breaks my heart. And I know I am not alone in these concerns. Many Benicia families of color have similar experiences.

I have noticed the Benicia District and schools taking steps to address the racial inequity and it gives me hope. Children should leave the educational system full of knowledge and eagerness to learn more. They should not leave needing to heal from psychological scars caused by race-based traumatic stress.

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

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



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

MLK Day in Benicia – Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Benicia Black Lives Matter hosting live reading of King’s historic letter, followed by discussion on Monday, January 18, 1PM

Benicia Black Lives Matter – Flyer for MLK reading and discussion, January 18, 2021


ZOOM Event by Benicia Black Lives Matter
Monday, January 18, 2021 at 1 PM PST
Price: Free
Public · Anyone on or off Facebook
BBLM will be doing a live reading of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. A community discussion will follow.
This event with be held through Zoom.
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89110536594
Meeting ID: 891 1053 6594
Passcode: 428570


Event on Facebook: facebook.com/events/408607286905979/
BBLM on Facebook: facebook.com/BeniciaBLM
BBLM Website: beniciablacklivesmatter.com