Free Educational Virtual Event on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Join Benicia Black Lives Matter for a free virtual event on Monday, January 17, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm, to celebrate the national Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day of Service. Established in 1994 to honor Dr. King’s life and contributions to advancing civil rights for Black Americans, this Federal holiday was intended to be a day of not just reflection, but also a day of action and self-education.
The free educational Zoom event, which is appropriate for all ages and levels of antiracist work, will feature guest speaker Mark Lampkin and focus on Dr. King’s “Three Evils of Society” speech. In 1967, Dr. King identified these three evils as racism, consumerism/poverty, and militarism/war, and he called for a “radical revolution of values” in pursuit of a more just and equitable future for all. And yet, more than 50 years later in 2022, these three evils Dr. King described are as rooted in our daily lives as—if not more entrenched than—ever.
So what have we learned in the last 50 years, and where do we go from here? Which of these three evils affects Benicia, and how can we join together to address it? BBLM is a grassroots community organization that was organized to address anti-Black racism by actively committing to building a better Benicia, one commitment and one change at a time. Join this timely discussion and learn more about the historic urgency that calls everyone to radical change, hope in action, and loving pursuit of improving our shared communities.
Topic: Benicia Black Lives Matter ML King Jr. Day Event
Time: Jan 17, 2022 01:30 PM Pacific Time
Benicia Black Lives Matter hosting live reading of King’s historic letter, followed by discussion on Monday, January 18, 1PM
ATTEND THE EVENT
ZOOM Event by Benicia Black Lives Matter
Monday, January 18, 2021 at 1 PM PST
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
BENICIA — “What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be in Vallejo?”
This was a question Benicia resident Nimat Shakoor-Grantham says her Black son was asked as he walked down a street in town. He had also been pulled over before and asked, again, what he was doing in Benicia, she said.
A Black woman sitting in a Benicia restaurant told Shakoor-Grantham that she was pelted with ice cubes by white males at a nearby table. The message she got was, “You don’t belong here in our space.”
As for Shakoor-Grantham, an African-American woman who has lived in Benicia since 2002, the disrespect she has seen has ranged from a man at Safeway calling her “gal” and telling her to go fetch him a cart, to threatening letters left on her doorstep — again asking, “What are you trying to do here?”
She thinks that last threat was because she founded the Benicia group of Black Lives Matter. She has had anonymous people taunting her with, “You are poking the bear, and when the bear gets poked, the bear gets mad,” or “Why are you creating trouble in Benicia?”
The “trouble” she and her BBLM colleagues are getting into is what the late Senator John Lewis would call “good trouble,” or raising awareness of inequality, bias, and prejudice among citizens in town.
“We specifically address issues with the government, city, and county,” she said. “We address issues of education and Black arts and culture. We also promote the awareness of systemic racism and bias.”
This last aspect of their work — promoting awareness of systemic racism — was highlighted by former Mayor Elizabeth Patterson on her blog “El Pat’s Forum” at the end of December.
Patterson described a council meeting where BBLM members addressed the body about a need for an equity and diversity manager, something that many cities have. The job of the manager will be to become a liaison between citizens, government and businesses to promote awareness and movement toward a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable place to live for people of color in Benicia. The hire will reach out to the school district as well as art and cultural organizations and spaces as well.
“When the recommendation was presented to council by staff and BBLM members, many council members were quick to offer ideas about what they thought BBLM needed,” wrote Patterson. “One could almost feel the insult that a white city council was telling the panel of four BBLM members what they needed.”
Shakoor-Grantham was at the meeting and agreed with this assessment, but told the Times-Herald that what struck her more was that they seemed more interested in how much it was going to cost to hire a person to do this rather than discussing the importance of having one.
“I said, these are my experiences here, what can be done about it? And I got crickets,” Shakoor-Grantham said.
Patterson agreed that discussion became money, writing “there was a lot of haggling over the cost.” She then pointed out what she described as “structural racism.”
The cost of hiring a part-time equity expert (30 hours a week) was put at $133,000, which council members said the city could not afford. However, Patterson points out, some of the same council members had recently estimated the value to the city that fees from developers bring in and they came up with $230,000.
One councilmember, she wrote, described this amount as “nothing” to the general fund, meaning in the town’s large budget they could “almost forgo” even collecting the fees.
The mayor then juxtaposed this with the proposed equity hire.
“The structural racism is clear. A council will say the city cannot afford programs that might have been beneficial to Black and Brown people, but can afford to subsidize market rate housing and businesses.”
For Shakoor-Grantham and BBLM, the mayor’s message was exactly what they have hoped to hear from government.
“I am very happy that Elizabeth had the insight, awareness, and courage to write this,” Shakoor-Grantham said. “She saw the apparent disparity and refused to remain silent as many people who shouldn’t remain silent choose to do,” she wrote in an op-ed in this paper.”
BBLM has about 30 members, she says, and everyone is committed to moving Benicia “in the right direction.” She estimates that 80 percent of the group is made up of white allies. She is quick to point out the many stereotypes that some people might have about Black Lives Matter.
“We want to work together with people, to learn and evolve together,” she said. “We aren’t trying to guilt trip white people.”
Shakoor-Grantham acknowledges that everyone, even herself, holds biases that they need to be aware of. However she says if your bias impacts the peace of another member of this community or makes them feel like they don’t belong here, it is important to address it. She feels she also has a big ally in Police Chief Erik Upson, who she says has been incredibly responsive.
“I have faith in him,” she said.
Overall, she is pleased at progress that has been made and she is looking forward to the city hiring the equity manager.
“There’s some good stuff happening, I’m really happy,” she says. “The good stuff out-shadows any of the negative.”