With another home game looming, the Sacramento Kings announced a partnership with an activist group formed in honor of Stephon Clark, whose death at the hands of Sacramento police has led to protests that prevented fans from getting inside Golden 1 Center.
The Kings announced late Wednesday they will set up an education fund for Clark's two young children, co-sponsor a forum in south Sacramento on Friday night and work with the fledgling Build. Black. Coalition "to support the education of young people and to provide the workforce preparation and economic development efforts" in a multiyear effort. The new coalition includes organizations such as Black Lives Matter's Sacramento chapter.
Activists have blocked off the Kings' arena for two of the team's past three home games in protest of the Sacramento Police Department's March 18 shooting of Clark, who was holding what police thought was a gun but was actually a cellphone.
The protests thrust Sacramento's Black Lives Matter group back into the spotlight and prompted the formation of Build. Black. Coalition, which operates under the slogan: "This is a movement, not a moment."
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"This tragic death really humanized something that’s been felt deeply in this community for a long time, something that’s been brewing,” Build. Black. Coalition. spokeswoman Darcy Totten said. "Our goal is to fundamentally transform the conditions that led to the death of Stephon Clark, because those conditions are systemic."
Kings players Vince Carter and Garrett Temple and retired guard Doug Christie are scheduled to appear at an event titled "Kings and Queens Rise: A Youth Voice Forum for Healing" at 5 p.m. Friday at South Sacramento Christian Church. Sacramento Area Youth Speaks will then lead an intensive writing seminar at 5:30, according to the release.
The announcement represents a potential breakthrough after days of tension that have disrupted a City Council meeting, blocked traffic throughout downtown Sacramento and set the city on edge. Police planned to beef up security for the Kings' 7 p.m. game against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, knowing protesters will be shouting outside District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office mere blocks away and could migrate to Downtown Commons. The Kings met with Mayor Darrell Steinberg, law enforcement and community leaders Wednesday to figure out how to get fans past the protesters.
Steinberg issued a statement Thursday morning, applauding the Kings and the Build. Black. Coalition. “I love that the Kings have joined the Build. Black. Coalition. and are stepping up to provide an education fund for Stephon Clark’s children in addition to committing to new investments in Sacramento’s African American youth.”
The mayor also appealed to Kings fans, many of whom have been shut out of two games because of the protests. “Let me say this to Kings fans – We appreciate your commitment to the team and know we will get through this difficult time together, better, and stronger as a united community. With my support, Sac PD and the Kings have updated the security plan for tonight’s game and we all look forward to welcoming guests into the arena tonight.”
“It is clear to me and I know the Kings that there remains a huge gulf between the exciting Sacramento renaissance and the daily struggles experienced by so many in our communities, especially communities of color. The Kings actions are a real step towards addressing those underlying issues and connecting the excitement and vitality in downtown to our neighborhoods, which is exactly what motivated me to run for mayor.“
The Kings' agreement with Black Lives Matter and other organizations could help temper potential unrest at Thursday's game and beyond.
"I think this is a very logical, proactive and thoughtful response," said Andy Dolich, a sports-management consultant and former Golden State Warriors executive. "This shows tremendous knowledge of their local scene and the ability and the desire to do something about it and not just be a spectator."
The Kings had attempted to forge an alliance with protesters after the first disruption at Golden 1 Center a week ago, which left the Kings playing to a near-empty arena. Christie and team Chairman Vivek Ranadive met with a protester and players wore warmup T-shirts bearing Clark's name at their next home game, last Sunday. But troubles surfaced again Tuesday after hundreds of protesters left the City Council meeting and blocked the entrance to Golden 1 Center shortly before the game against Dallas started. About 4,000 fans were able to get inside.
Besides Black Lives Matter, other groups that have signed onto the new agreement with the Kings include Voice of the Youth, the Urban League and NAACP. All groups will be feeding into the Build. Black. Coalition, Totten said.
"Confirmation, that with just right amount of pressure, positive change can come. We see you .@Vivek," Sacramento's Black Lives Matter chapter tweeted Thursday.
"Let our voices be heard as we heal our community and ourselves Together," said Berry Accius, who leads Voice of the Youth, in a posting on Facebook.
At Friday's event, food trucks will dish out complimentary food for kids, who can get to the event for free via Sacramento Regional Transit if they pick up Sierra Health Foundation vouchers from one of the seven neighborhoods with the highest rates of African American child death in the county. Carter, Temple and Christie will also be joined by leaders from the local NAACP chapter, Black Lives Matter movement and other race-related organizations.
Clark’s funeral was Thursday at Bayside Boss Church. The Rev. Al Sharpton and Imam Zaid Shakir, who led Muhammad Ali's funeral service, spoke at the service.
Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, firstname.lastname@example.org