Tag Archives: George Floyd

‘Our Voices’ – Black History Month


From BeniciaBlackLivesMatter.com
[See also: About BBLM]

“The time is always right to do the right thing. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)
“The stones that the builder rejected are now the cornerstones of this experiment called America…When the rejected get together, we can in fact redeem America from hate and discrimination. When the rejected join hands, our togetherness becomes the instrument of redemption, and we can revive and ensure that the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and equal protection under the law, and care for the common good will never be taken away or forfeited for anybody, any time, anywhere.”
– The Bishop Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, III (2017)

February 6, 2023
By Sheri Leigh, a member of Benicia Black Lives Matter

February has been designated as Black History Month. It’s interesting that the public education system and the national government now sanction a month to focus on the history of Black people when Black history has been part of American and world history all along, as have women’s history, gay history, and the histories of other marginalized groups. Ideally, the history of these groups shouldn’t have to be singled out for special consideration. However, the designation does provide a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on the historical progress and continuing challenges Blacks and People of Color and marginalized groups face. Let’s take a moment to consider what progressive and much needed changes the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King’s efforts precipitated and the challenges he faced in the process, and compare that to where we are today.

The late Reverend King is much revered by many. With his organization and leadership skills, he orchestrated several momentous demonstrations that ultimately led to legislative changes that helped Black Americans access civil rights and made significant progress towards an equitable society. The ensuing Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were two of the most powerful pieces of legislation that brought an end to legal segregation, voting suppression, and an imbalanced workplace based on race. Dr. King’s efforts were not only directed towards rights for Black people, he also focused on jobs for everyone. One of the goals of his March on Washington in 1963 was to train and place unemployed workers, and the Poor People’s Campaign in 1967 sought to address solutions to poverty in general through better employment and housing. Dr. King embraced personal responsibility, urging people to judge others by their personal qualities, rather than by the color of their skin. This is why we honor Martin Luther King with a special day of commemoration. But what about his challenges?

Dr. King was largely despised while he lived. His leadership threatened the way of life for the white community and many of them, acting out of fear of losing their social advantages, treated him with utter disdain and hatred. He was arrested 29 times. The FBI pronounced him a threat to National Security. He was dismissed by other leaders of his own faith, both Black and white, who publicly (and with great hypocrisy) claimed that the Church should not involve itself in social issues. Despite his commitment to non-violent tactics, the marches he led were met with vehement and aggressive attacks, sometimes by white bystanders and sometimes by law enforcement. His marchers were frequently assaulted by activated fire hoses and trained attack dogs. Some were targeting children who were peaceably marching for the right to an equitable life in this country. Dr. King was stabbed, his home was bombed, and he was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt ten years before James Earl Ray finally shot and killed King on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

But one of the most difficult challenges Dr. King faced was among his own race. Some members of the Black community preferred to keep the status quo in order to remain safe. Others believed that King’s commitment to non-violence was a strategy intended to bring a “Christian” ideology to his efforts and to wake up the consciousness of white “Christians,” rather than as an authentic practice. King’s early partnership with organizations such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) served to strengthen this viewpoint. The Pittsburgh Courier, a leading Black newspaper, claimed that “King was tragically misleading Black Americans.” A few prominent Black organizations, including the Congress of Racial Equity (CORE), did not agree with the passive protesting model. Several factions of Civil Rights advocates agreed with CORE and promoted defending themselves against the rampant violence inflicted on them by white individuals and mobs during the protests, as well as at other times, particularly when police stood by and did nothing to protect the protestors. As the “Black Power” slogan gained momentum, a rift developed between the followers of Dr. King and those who sought justice by fighting back. For a time, King was one of the most hated men of his time within his own community.

It was a complicated and dangerous time, and Dr. King was angry, as he had every right to be. What he endured was unfathomable. Yet he continued to channel his anger into leading a national, non-violent movement and making passionate speeches, which, seventy years later, we are still quoting. Today, he is recognized as the primary leader of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. With his tremendous oratory and leadership skills, and his untiring commitment to civil rights and equity, he instigated tremendous advancement for People of Color in this country. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize of 1964 as a tribute to the enormity of his efforts.

Today, there is still rampant and unnecessary violence against Black people. With the well publicized murders of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and just last month, Tyre Nichols, to name a few – all Black and all killed by law enforcement officers for dubious reasons- it is obvious there is still a serious lack of decorum and training in many prominent law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Most states, including California, grant qualified immunity to law enforcement agents, keeping them protected from prosecution when they have injured or killed someone while on duty unless there is reason to believe that they knowingly violated that victim’s constitutional rights. This violation is often difficult to prove. It’s no wonder many People of Color don’t feel safe around those sworn to “protect” us. Systemic racism in schools, government agencies, and financial institutions remain a considerable roadblock to many individuals and families of Color towards obtaining equal opportunity and economic and social advancement.

The critical work of Dr. King continues to be carried out by leaders such as Bishop Doctor William J. Barber III, who is leading a campaign very similar to what Dr. King did in the 1960s. Dr. Barber is President of his growing non-profit organization, Repairers of the Breach, and a Senior Lecturer at several universities, including the Yale Divinity School. He is also Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. He served as President of the North Carolina NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) from 2006 -2017 and continues his work there on the Board of Directors. Through his organization, Repairers of the Breach, Dr. Barber is committed to a movement he calls Moral Fusion, which emphasizes grassroots protesting through non-violent civil disobedience and change through education, voting rights and engagement, much like Dr. King. And like Dr. King, Dr. Barber is focusing his efforts primarily in the deep South, where the damaging history of race-based slavery has created lasting racial discrimination and tension.

Black history, which is a significant part of American history, today is much like the history of seventy years ago. Although legislatively, we have come a long way, Blacks and other marginalized groups are still fighting every day to be free from discrimination, and for social and financial equity, public respect, and the right to a safe and happy life. The question is, what can we do, collectively and as individuals, to bring an end to this imbalance and injustice?

Black History Month in Benicia – Scavenger Hunt & Movie Screening

Benicia Black Lives Matters hopes that you will join us for our free upcoming Black History Month event on Sunday, February 19. We are sponsoring a children’s Scavenger Hunt to learn about Black historical figures along First Street from 1 – 4pm. The hunt will culminate at the Benicia library. For the first clue and more details on the Scavenger Hunt, please email: BBLMEducationTeam@gmail.com. There will also be a short program and a movie screening of the documentary, “We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest,” at the library in the Dona Benicia room from 3:30 – 5pm. Everyone is invited and welcome!

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

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.”


1 verdict, then 6 police killings across America in 24 hours

Associated Press News, By Alanna Durkin Richer & Lindsay Whitehurst

Even as the Derek Chauvin case was fresh in memory — the reading of the verdict in a Minneapolis courtroom, the shackling of the former police officer, the jubilation at what many saw as justice in the death of George Floyd — even then, blood flowed on America’s streets.

And even then, some of that blood was shed at the hands of law enforcement.

At least six people were fatally shot by officers across the United States in the 24 hours after jurors reached a verdict in the murder case against Chauvin on Tuesday. The roll call of the dead is distressing:

A 16-year-old girl in Columbus, Ohio.

An oft-arrested man in Escondido, California.

A 42-year-old man in eastern North Carolina.

The deaths, in some cases, sparked new cries for justice. Some said they reflect an urgent need for radical changes to American policing — a need that the Chauvin verdict cannot paper over. For others, the shootings are a tragic reminder of the difficult and dangerous decisions law enforcement face daily.

An unidentified man in San Antonio.

Another man, killed in the same city within hours of the first.

A 31-year-old man in central Massachusetts.

The circumstances surrounding each death differ widely. Some happened while officers investigated serious crimes. Police say some of the people were armed with a gun, knife or a metal pole. One man claimed to have a bomb that he threatened to detonate. In several cases, little is known about the lives of those killed and what happened in their final moments.

The deadly encounters are only a small snapshot of the thousands of interactions between American police officers and civilians every day, most of which end safely. Uneventful encounters between the police and the populace, however, are not an issue.

It’s a very different story when a weapon is drawn and a life is ended.

As the nation watched the judge read the verdict against Chavuin on Tuesday afternoon, an officer hundreds of miles away was listening over his patrol car radio in a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Minutes earlier, a colleague fatally shot a teenage girl.

Police had been called to the house after someone called 911 and reported being physically threatened. Body camera footage shows an officer approaching a group of people in the driveway as the teenager, Ma’Khia Bryant, swings a knife wildly. Moments later, the girl charges at a young woman pinned against a car.

The officer fires four shots before Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade, similar to a kitchen or steak knife, lies on the sidewalk next to her.

“You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!” a man shouted at the officer.

The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

Later, an anguished neighbor yells at officers: “Do you see why Black lives matter? Do you get it now?”

Bryant, who was in foster care at the time, was a shy, quiet girl who liked making hair and dance videos on TikTok, her grandmother, Debra Wilcox, told The Associated Press. Her family says her actions that day were out of character.

“I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life,” Wilcox said.

Though officials have said Bryant’s death was a tragedy, they point to laws allowing police to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.

The officer’s actions were “an act of heroism” with tragic results, said the National Fraternal Order of Police president, “yet another demonstration of the impossible situations” police face.


About the same time the radio brought the news of Chauvin’s verdict to Columbus, two officers in San Antonio were confronting a man on a bus. Exactly how the encounter started remains unclear, but police say the unidentified man was armed. It ended with officers firing fatal shots.

Later that evening in the same city, authorities say a man killed a person working in a shed outside his home. As officers arrived, the suspect started shooting at police. They returned fired, killing him. Officials have not released his name.


As the nation digested the news from Minneapolis, the day wore on and daily life unspooled. In Worcester, Massachusetts, the night was punctuated by a standoff with police that ended in gunfire.

Phet Gouvonvong, 31, called 911 and claimed to have a bomb he threatened to set off, police said. Officers found him on the street. They said he was wearing body armor and had a backpack and what appeared to be a rifle.

A police SWAT team joined negotiators. One reached Gouvonvong by phone to try to calm him, officials say.

Around midnight, officials say, Gouvonvong moved toward police, and an officer opened fire.

Gouvonvong was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not said whether he actually had an explosive device.

Gouvonvong had run-ins with police over the years, including a conviction for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, but an aunt said he turned his life around, the Telegram & Gazette newspaper reported.

On Thursday, his mother crumpled onto the street in tears where flowers had been laid at the site of his killing. Marie Gonzalez told the newspaper she had called police Tuesday night to try to connect with her son but they wouldn’t put her through. She believed she could have prevented it.

“They had no right taking my son’s life,” she said. “They had no right.”


The next morning, as people in Minneapolis awakened to a city boarded up for unrest that never materialized, a 42-year-old Black man in eastern North Carolina was shot and killed when deputy sheriffs tried to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants.

An eyewitness has said Andrew Brown Jr. was shot dead in his car in Elizabeth City as he tried to drive away. A car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a shattered back window.

His slaying sparked an outcry as hundreds demanded the release of body camera footage. Seven deputies have been placed on leave.

Relatives described Brown as a doting father who always had a joke to tell. He also had a difficult life. His mother was killed when he was young, he was partially paralyzed on his right side by an accidental shooting and lost an eye in a stabbing, according to an aunt, Glenda Brown Thomas.

He also had troubles with the law, including a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and some pending felony drug charges. The day before he was killed, two arrest warrants were issued for him on drug-related charges including possession with intent to sell cocaine, court records show.

Officers have so far said little about why they fired, but his family is determined to get answers.

“The police didn’t have to shoot my baby,” said another aunt, Martha McCullen.


That same morning, police in Southern California got a call about someone hitting cars with a metal pole. The man ran off when police arrived, but another officer spotted him carrying a 2-foot metal pole in the street.

The white man charged at the officer, who ordered him to drop the pole before opening fire, police said.

Police in Escondido, near San Diego, have not released the man’s name, but did say he had been arrested nearly 200 times over the past two decades for violent assaults on police and the public, drug charges and other crimes. Efforts to get him help from mental health professionals hadn’t worked, the police chief said.


Whether any officers will face charges in these shootings remains to be seen.

Chauvin was largely convicted based on video that showed him pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Police shootings in a heated moment are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Juries have generally been reluctant to second-guess officers when they claim to have acted in life-or-death situations.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s verdict, prosecutors on opposite coasts announced opposite decisions on whether to advance charges against law enforcement who killed.

A Florida prosecutor announced Wednesday he would not pursue charges against a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed two Black teenagers; a California prosecutor announced manslaughter and assault charges against a deputy in the eastern San Francisco Bay area in the shooting of an unarmed Filipino man.

None of these cases has focused attention like the trial that came to a conclusion Tuesday. Some people hold out hope that the Chauvin verdict might be a crucial juncture in the national conversation about race, policing and the use of force.

“We are in a moment of reckoning,” said Rachael Rollins, district attorney for Boston and surrounding communities and the first woman of color to serve as a top county prosecutor in Massachusetts.

“If we can be strategic and come together,” she said, “we can make profound changes, profound.”


Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Julie Watson in San Diego and Juliet Williams in San Francisco contributed to this report, as did Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio.  Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative.  Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.