My home town Sacramento has been in the news more often than usual lately. We received a lot of positive press when Greta Gerwig started filming her movies right here in our front yards. The Oscar-nominated Ladybird, and her earlier work Frances Ha, both included scenes filmed right down the street from where I live! No, I’m not near that big blue house in Ladybird, but I do frequent the ice cream parlors that made the cut—the one in Frances Ha and the one in Ladybird. I’m kinda known for my ice cream parlor expertise, but I digress.
In the past few weeks, Sacramento has become known for something awful: the tragic police shooting that led to the death of a young unarmed African-American man named Stephon Clark. There has been a lot of coverage on the national news, and I have no wisdom to add to this very sad situation. There are just a few small things I want to say here.
First, I really like our mayor.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg has been a public servant/politician representing Sacramento on the City Council and in the state legislature for decades. In other words we’ve known him for a long time. What has been reported here, but probably is unknown nationally, is that Mayor Steinberg is the father of a daughter with special needs (as we say in special education). She is an adult now, and a few years ago she chose to share with our local newspaper her story of living with mental illness. Those of us who have taught and/or lived with children who have similar issues know what it’s like. As a friend of mine said, “I’m sure Darrell Steinberg has seen his share of meltdowns.”
And so I was unsurprised at how calmly Mayor Steinberg reacted when Stevante Clark, the brother of the slain young man, disrupted a city council hearing by jumping onto the dais, chanting and then yelling, “Shut up!” in the mayor’s face. Mayor Steinberg saw a young man in grief and anguish over the loss of his brother. I am very sure that many, if not most, politicians would have taken this affront personally and had Stevante taken away in handcuffs. But our mayor handled the situation delicately and with great empathy, earning an apology from Stevante a few days later.
Likewise Daniel Hahn, our new police chief, has handled the protests skillfully. In most cases, the Sacramento City Police have given the protesters a wide berth, keeping their distance. Our local paper reports that the officers have at times even hurried ahead of street protesters to divert traffic. This has resulted in no violence save for minor scuffles, no significant injuries, very little vandalism, and only one arrest (a man who was banging on the city council doors, disrupting a meeting).
However we have a sheriff who believes in a different approach. When the protesters marched beyond city limits (not a clear demarcation, believe me!) into an unincorporated area on Saturday night, they were greeted by sheriff deputies in riot gear, and a helicopter blasting commands to disperse or be arrested. This response is not conducive to maintaining a nonviolent gathering—to put it mildly. If you live out of our area, and you hear about this kind of response, please realize we have more than one law enforcement agency who have competing points of view on how to handle such things. You may read about our sheriff here
Some of you may also find this article pertinent
But my main purpose here is to say I feel we are blessed to have two people—Mayor Steinberg and Chief Hahn—who are the right people at the right time to lead our city at such a pivotal moment. They both seem to understand that strength does not come through confrontation. Both are taking responsibility to lead, and yet neither is taking the public’s natural expression of anger and frustration personally. They would make excellent role models for a few politicians at the national level—and for our children as well.
Please keep our city and the people here in your prayers. I pray for harmony, that this painful and tragic incident may spark a movement that will bring healing for all of us, particularly for people of color.
May the love we feel for our homes, our communities, our loved ones be a perfect reflection of the love the Divinity feels for us, that we may see the manifestation of grace, love and equality for all.