What Is Black Lives Matter Sacramento
How many black lives have been taken by Sacramento Law Enforcement? Who was keeping count? Who was fighting for those who no longer had a voice? How many black men and women did we have to lose for it to be too much? These were probably the questions Tanya Faison asked herself before launching “Incite Insight” in 2014. As you could probably imagine, with Sacramento being the capital of California, there are many grass-root organizations but none that focused on being the voice of black folks in the community. As a result, in August of 2014 Incite Insight was launched to be a form of support to communities experiencing police terrorism nationally. It didn’t take long for a core group to form around the cause, giving what time they could to the organization. The killing of Adriene Jamar Ludd in October 2015 sparked outrage within the community as the story kept changing amongst police involved and witnesses. Alicia Garza reached out to anyone that could fight for Adriene within Sacramento and eventually got connected with Tanya. Incite Insight transitioned into what now is the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter in November 2015 and have adopted the principles that guide our everyday work.
Challenges We Face In Sacramento
For years, the elected leaders of this city have done whatever they want with no one holding them accountable. Sacramento has an extremely layered system of politics and oversight, that is intricately intertwined making it very difficult to dismantle. Sacramento is not just a city within California, it is the state’s capital, which makes for interesting intersections and slows the rate of progress compared to other cities. In learning to navigate the complexities of Sacramento’s political dynamics, we have found a litany of challenges. For example, the Sacramento Police Department currently has unlimited real time city camera surveillance without any regulation; coupled with a police commission that has no power, and policy that includes no accountability for misconduct or police killing.
The city council has been a joke, with respects to a concerted effort to bring substantial and equitable change to the city and all of its people. Our city is being gentrified at an alarming rate, and our city council is in bed with the organizations funding the impending doom. There are strong ties with police associations, developers, real estate agents and investors. The mere fact of being homeless in Sacramento is a crime. Community members cannot feed unhoused folks without a permit, and sleeping outside is a criminalized. The pockets of our city council are filled with the money of police, correctional officers, and probation unions. It is plain to see who our city council works for and has allegiance to.
The Sheriff of Sacramento rules with no accountability. The representatives that oversee the actions of the sheriff are all appointed by the Sheriff. The “Inspector General” position was created to oversee the Sheriff for accountability purposes and the position was filled with a 30 year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, appointed by the Sheriff. The Sheriff managed to oust the OIG when a criticism of his department was voiced, and that seat is now empty. Sheriff Scott Jones maintains unethical practices and relationships with business that profit from his influence. He has been accused and sued for sexual assault of female deputies. Over the course of his career he has cost the Sacramento taxpayers roughly 1.5 million dollars in lawsuits for rape, torture, excessive force, and in custody deaths. There are more law suits against the Sacramento Sheriff's Department, than we can count. All at the costs of the taxpayer.
What Black Lives Matter Sacramento has accomplished in a glance
Since November of 2015, the mission of Black Lives Matter Sacramento has been to empower our local communities that have often been on the receiving end of injustice, inequality and disenfranchisement. Through education and action, it is our goal to intervene where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. We are committed to boldly challenging state-sanctioned violence within our city and against our community members. This fight includes but is not limited to standing against the displacement of people of color; the oppressive nature of politics, politicians and business, as usual, that values profit over basic human rights; and behaviors and excessive force associated with law enforcement that lead to mass incarceration, police brutality and death. At the end of the day, this work is about uniting communities and working with organizations while seeking equality and equity. We understand that People Power is one of the most powerful tools to combat systemic injustice.
Justice For Sacramento
While we have been a chapter we have seen the extremely high rate of police violence and often death.
Adriene Ludd - Sacramento Sheriff Department 2015
Dazion Flenaugh - Sacramento Police Department 2016
Joseph Mann - Sacramento Police Department 2016
Lorenzo Cruz - Rocklin Police Department 2017
Desmond Phillips - Chico Police Department and Sacramento Police Department 2017
Ryan Ellis - Sacramento Sheriff Department 2017
Mikel McIntyre - Sacramento Sheriff Department 2017
Stephon Clark - Sacramento Police Department 2018
Brandon Smith - Sacramento County Probation and Sacramento Police Department 2018
Darell Richards - Sacramento Police Department 2018
Marshall Miles - Sacramento Sheriff Department 2018
Our campaign against gentrification has started its focus on the historically Black neighborhood of Oak Park. Gentrification has been and is firmly present in this specific community. Our efforts are centered on educating folks on gentrification, fighting for the longtime residents of color in Oak Park, and establishing a stronger resident-community voice in the neighborhood development decisions made going forward. We have canvassed the area with a survey to collect data and assess the needs and concerns of the community. We are pushing the Oak Park Neighborhood Association (OPNA) to be more accessible to longtime residents of color. We have enabled conversations about over policing in Oak Park and we will be meeting with business owners to push for jobs to folks of color, folks that are from that community. We are also meeting with city officials to bring the needs of the community to them. Our ongoing relationship with OPNA focuses on shaping policy regarding grant money received to address gentrification. It is important to establish how that money is invested for long term efforts with respects to serving the needs of the people.
It is our goal to target the areas of Seavey Circle and New Helvetia, as these areas have also been overshadowed by gentrifications. In all three of these areas, there is seemingly affordable housing but if the trend of gentrification continues these affordable communities will be torn down and built into expensive townhomes for the new Golden 1 Arena. We have determined 50% of the people living in these areas will be displaced and the city has no plan to rehouse those affected.
We believe the the police will only work how they are supposed to, if they are overseen by the community. As the community we watch the police when we see them pull folks over or harass them, and also in a committed role that follows and documents officer routes, schedules, and behaviors. We are currently working toward creating a team of folks that will oversee their communities and keep them safe from law enforcement. With this work we plan to gather data that is made public to the greater Sacramento community.
Sacramento Community Police Oversight Commission
We are fighting for our police oversight commission to have more power. At the present, this commission only has the power to review data. Even with this power, the data are highly limited. The data does not include any active investigations nor can the data be related to police misconduct. When the pressure Black Lives Matter Sacramento put on the City Council built momentum, organizations like Sacramento ACT and LEAD joined us in the fight as a collective coalition effort. After some commission changes, the City Council moved to grant the commission more power.
Several coalition members visited and researched the powers of other city’s oversight commissions to explore how their oversight commissions are set up and what powers they wield. In this vein, the City Council was presented with examples from other city council commissions like Berkeley and San Diego. During this time we discovered multiple City Council members, such as Steve Hansen and Angelique Ashby, had accepted hefty contribution from police unions. Which, as you could imagine, could cause a conflict of interest.
If the Council and Commission truly desires accountability and transparency, there is clearly more pressure needed. To this point, the Council has passed an ordinance that mandates the release of all police video and audio associated with police involved shootings within 30 to the family of the deceased. By no means do we want to minimize the importance of that ordinance but there is so much more work to be done. The Council and Commission, if it is to be independent and therefore effective, must exclude itself from any association with Law Enforcement considering the layered power structures in the city of Sacramento. While all of our requests have not been granted, the fight continues.
Elk Grove Unified School District
In 2016, Nyree Holmes, an African American honor student, was escorted from his graduation ceremony for wearing a Kente cloth around the collar of his graduation gown. Citing a policy preventing accessories to cap and gown ceremonies, the on duty officer took Holmes from the stage after he crossed it and escorted him out of the building. Needless to say, this was unacceptable.
In working with the school district, the school board was receptive and open to changing the policy for future graduates. Going forward, we will continue to work in collaboration with the school district to implement policy that will reflect and respect the diverse student populations that attend school in the Elk Grove district. It is our goal that this will be a launching pad allowing us to approach other school districts in the Sacramento area. For example, a strong point of contention concerns the presence of Sheriff Deputies on school campus. We maintain that this focuses on discipline and does not allow for restorative justice for students. We also urge that school staff be reflective of student population and that school staff accommodate student diversity based on race, needs, and access.
Folsom Cordova Unified School District
When a middle school teacher at Sutter Middle School in Folsom, CA (a heavily upper middle class white populated area) made inappropriate comments about lynching to his class, the only black student in class felt uncomfortable and reported the incident to his parents. The comment was “When you hang one Black person, you’d have to hang them all, that’s equality”. After the family filed a complaint about the racist comments, it was brought to the attention of the media. Outraged by the comments, we attended the school board meeting following the incident. Black Lives Matter Sacramento, along with the support of Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Sacramento, felt compelled to demand the school district discipline the teacher. After this initial event, the teacher then hung a confederate flag in his classroom. Ultimately and as a direct response to the community reaction, he was briefly placed on administrative paid leave and forced to retire, though he will likely continue to receive a pension.
Abolish & Rebuild
We are partnering with our communities to discuss and build a structure outside of the existing Law Enforcement apparatus. Through these meetings, we’re compiling a resource database to address the needs of the community, establishing an infrastructure of rapid response, and creating and maintaining neighborhood aid as if we are a community without the police. In short, we aim to make our communities safer and stronger by creating networks that do not only act as crisis services, but offer to strengthen a fabric of community members that might prevent a large portion of these crises all together.
As an alternative to 911 for mental health crises and in an effort to prevent the continuous and rampant criminalization of our community members, we hope to build a preventative foundation within the community and to de-escalate high-intensity incidents without calling law enforcement. Throughout this process we have been keeping the principles of transformative justice in mind, and while much of this is still theoretical in nature, we are adamant about fostering it into a material form and keeping our communities safe.
What’s Coming Down the Pipeline
Black Lives Matter Sacramento aspires to accomplish so much more while maintaining our current efforts. Locally, the loss of innocent lives, at the hands of police, have resulted in settlements, financial aid for funeral costs, and the loss of employment, but Black Lives Matter Sacramento wants more. We want to see officers held accountable for their actions, and we want more transparency from local departments. We plan to continue our fight for Black Liberation and aim to see that those responsible for these deaths are brought to justice. Though this task has been arduous, this will always be one of our greatest hopes for the future.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento