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Stephon Clark lived and died in Meadowview. A year later, has the neighborhood changed?

Teen event in the Meadowview community kicks off the Stephon Clark Legacy Weekend

Members of the Meadowview community come together to celebrate the first day of the Stephon Clark Legacy Weekend at Pannel Meadowview Community Center, Friday, March 15, 2019. During this time, community members participate in healing conversations.
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Members of the Meadowview community come together to celebrate the first day of the Stephon Clark Legacy Weekend at Pannel Meadowview Community Center, Friday, March 15, 2019. During this time, community members participate in healing conversations.

The brick home on 29th Street in south Sacramento has seen some changes in the last year. The Meadowview house owned by Stephon Clark’s grandmother was painted, the exterior refinished and the large brick cross over the garage door restored.

Some residents say not much else has changed in the neighborhood since Clark was shot and killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard.

The Clark killing, which occurred a year ago March 18, had a profound and lasting impact on Sacramento, sparking mass protests, passionate debate and soul-searching. Since then, Meadowview has seen grassroots efforts to improve the lives of youths and families in the neighborhood.

Clark’s shooting struck deep nerves, and the uneasy relationship between the community and police persists.

Meadowview, which makes up 5 percent of Sacramento’s population, runs from Interstate 5 to Franklin Boulevard and in between Florin Road and Cosumnes River Boulevard.

The south Sacramento neighborhood has long been characterized as troubled.

Although it accounts for 5 percent of Sacramento’s violent crime, according to the city of Sacramento’s Open Data Portal, Meadowview is dotted with homes fenced off with chain-link and wrought-iron fences. Some front doors are unreachable behind tall gates and locked screen doors.

The median household income in Meadowview is far below the citywide average, census data show. Homes are worth far less than those in many other neighborhoods.

Christy Zon’s family installed cameras two years ago, hoping they will deter theft and burglary. Zon, 18, lives near the empty land that backs into the Meadowview light-rail station. She sees foot traffic through her neighborhood to and from the light rail, but says it rarely concerns her.

The patrolling by police, Zon said, is a good thing.

No data confirm or deny that Meadowview, or other parts of Sacramento, are overpoliced, according to Sacramento Police Department spokesman Officer Marcus Basquez.

But some residents say they feel overpoliced, and some say they are targets.

Tyler McClure, 25, has lived in Meadowview all his life, except for the years he studied at California State University, East Bay.

“It’s home to me, but I don’t feel safe here,” McClure said. “I have been harassed by police officers multiple times.”

When asked how often, McClure answered, “How long do you have? I can go on for a while.”

McClure said he’s been followed so often without being pulled over or issued a ticket that he once called the Sacramento Police Department to complain.

Last year, McClure said, he was followed home for more than a mile, and when he drove up his driveway on 29th Street, the officer shined a light on him and watched him enter his home.

“I was actually scared,” McClure said. “I stayed at a mentor’s home two summers ago, and I would enter the home through a back window. I had to worry every time there was a cop on my street.”

McClure’s most recent interaction with officers was Monday. Officers were looking for a stolen vehicle after being alerted to the area by one of the dozens of live cameras called police observation devices, or PODs, according to police records. The police department rotates them throughout the city, and several monitor busy intersections in south Sacramento neighborhoods, according to Basquez.

A police officer swung open the door of McClure’s parked car with a gun drawn, only to say, “You’re not the guy we are looking for,” McClure said.

“I felt traumatized,” he said. “It was at night and I didn’t realize it was an officer. Imagine if my first reaction was to pull the door closed?”

The memory of the Clark shooting, and the feeling of how he could have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, still haunt McClure.

McClure got off at the Meadowview light-rail station just a block away from his own home. After seeing police cars racing by, and learning that police shot and killed Clark – a young black man – McClure realized police could have turned their attention to him.

“But I got a ride home that night,” he said.

Since Clark’s killing, McClure said, the community has seen more outreach and support efforts.

Meadowview and surrounding neighborhoods in south Sacramento have long-standing programs that serve marginalized communities and people of color.

“People have been taking notice because the height of the problem is in everyone’s face now,” said youth mentor and activist Berry Accius.

Earlier this month, more than 100 protesters took to the streets of Meadowview to protest the Sacramento County district attorney’s decision not to prosecute the two officers who shot and killed Clark.

“I think we are finally living in a day when we need to start making adjustments and we will see change,” McClure said. “But these protests move in trends and they don’t last.”

McClure now works at the Center for Fathers and Families, a nonprofit agency that runs educational programs for under-served children out of 16 Sacramento area schools. Due to limited funding, only three of those schools are in south Sacramento, including H.W. Harkness Elementary School, where McClure works.

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Tyler McClure with the Center for Fathers and Families shares a laugh with H.W.Harkness Elementary School children in an after school program in the Meadowview neighborhood on Friday, March 15, 2019 in Sacramento. Renee C. Byer rbyer@sacbee.com

McClure provides social, emotional and learning experiences to dozens of students in the 25-year-old program, which is run by Sacramento City Councilman Richard Jennings.

Jennings said Measure U funding, which comes from a half-cent tax, has allowed the city to invest in neighborhood-based revitalization. That has translated to several pop-up events, but Jennings said funds are lacking to consistently serve the most high-risk neighborhoods, such as Meadowview.

“When you take the number of kids in the schools in that area and compare it to the number of providers, there’s an imbalance,” he said. “We want to reach every child, but we can’t do that when there are not enough services.”

Build.Black.Coalition formed just before Clark was killed and launched shortly after. But programs like Black Child Legacy Campaign and Accius’ mentorship program, Voice of the Youth, have been around for years.

Jennings noted some resulting areas of improvement: higher graduation rates and less crime over the years.

“There is much more awareness about the real lack of equity around here,” Accius said. “It’s more than just Stephon Clark’s murder. People realize we have to focus on literacy and leadership, and we are very unapologetic about prioritizing our own young people.”

McClure said youths in south Sacramento should have mentors and leaders who look like them and are from their community.

“Some of these youth have nobody to pour into them, and I worry about this new generation,” he said, calling his work his “God-given passion.”

Accius said he hopes that the youths they work with in the Meadowview area and beyond value the grassroots efforts their black leaders are making, so that they can carry on with the work in the future – the grassroots work Accius says no one can help them with but themselves.

McClure said positive change in Meadowview had to come from the people who live there.

“The struggle is that this system wasn’t created for us to begin with.”

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.
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