Sacramento Teen On Stephon Clark’s Death: “My Community Is Hurting”

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Rachael Francois, 17, lives in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of Rachael Francois.

When 22-year-old Stephon “Zoe” Clark was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in his grandmother’s backyard, he left behind two kids, a fiancé, and a broken, grieving community — my community.

I grew up in Sacramento. And even though I’m still in high school, I live in fear knowing that the next “unarmed black” male or female in the headlines could be my dad, uncle, cousin, or even myself. 

Growing up in the black community here, we are trained to always be aware of our surroundings, more than other kids, because one blink too long could be fatal. We proclaim our love for one another before leaving the house or ending a phone call because that could be the last time we hear or see each other alive.

As black youth, we are angry — angry because our government officials do not take us seriously when we express our concerns after our sisters and brothers are slaughtered in the streets by the police.  

As black youth, we are confused — confused because we are constantly raising the issue of gun control in America, but it seems like it only matters when white lives are in danger. 

Unaware of their privilege, people tell us it’s our fault the police kill us, or that we have no reason to fear the police. but many active community leaders such as my uncle, Les Simmons, or Berry Accius reassure us that what we feel is normal and justified, and the police should be learning how to interact with us, not the other way around. 

My community is hurting. Stephon Clark’s death opened old wounds here. I think back to last month’s Sacramento city council meeting and I could see the tension in the room. The city council members stared emotionless at the lively crowd while we all poured our hearts out yearning for change. Just a few days later, at a youth forum, children as young as 8 expressed their pain through spoken word. Seeing and feeling the pain brought tears to my eyes. 

It’s time people outside the black community value that pain too.

If people valued our lives as much as white kids’, gun control, #neveragain and #enough would apply to the cops too. We are being murdered — by the people who are trained to “serve and protect” us. We are seen as numbers rather than individuals. We plan protests, attend marches, but nothing we do is ever enough. 

We have proven that we want change, but until the rest of America is ready for change, we will be forced to take the abuse. 

Youth from all over Sacramento have come together to heal and change the culture of this community. Although we are all still grieving from this recent tragedy, we have unified as one to help lift each other up. Whether it’s speaking at city council, youth town halls, or simply raising awareness, we have all been activated in our efforts to change Sacramento for the better.

Rachael Francois is 17 and a participant with Voice of The Youth in Sacramento. Her essay was produced by Youth Radio.

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