Left photo: Stevante, myself, and Yusuf Salaam at the Congressional Black Caucus Gala, 2019. Right photo: Myself holding a banner reading “Jail Killer KKKops. #StephonClark” on the Sacramento Fashion Week runway, 2019. My decision to hold this banner was mine alone and does not represent the positions of SACFW nor the designer.
Stevante and I became close after a peaceful protest at Sacramento Fashion week went viral, and was even shared by nationally acclaimed civil rights lawyers. In the fall of 2019, he visited DC and invited me to attend the annual Congressional Black Caucus Gala. There we linked with a few notable Black people, Al Sharpton's daughters, a couple of senators and house members, even kiki-ed it up with Korey Wise and Yusuf Salaam of the Central Park 5 who’s stories reverberated and reignited demands for police reform as the predatory tactics of DA offices became more and more exposed. I was impressed with Stevante’s ability to network with such influential people. If you want to get anything done--in DC or the world really--networking is key. We headed to the bar and started chatting, I asked what he wanted to see accomplished in the future for Sacramento. What he wanted to get done in our city. He talked about a community foundation and establishing a resource center in Stephon’s name. “Stephon’s House”, as he called it.
Fast forward to the summer of 2020: the nation was consumed by protests beginning late May, surging in early June and resiliently continuing into the rest of the summer months denouncing the state-sanctioned murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmad Aubrey. People were in the streets standing against police brutality and people were strategizing behind the scenes on how we can use this momentum to influence tangible and sustainable change in our respective cities. It was time to launch a foundation that addressed local police issues, that provided resources for the community to progress itself, that galvanized and organized those tired of how the system treated Black Americans. It was time to launch IAMSAC.
Much of my time with IAMSAC was spent as a community relations director. In this role I engaged with various facets of the Sacramento community: reached out to potential sponsors; coordinated fundraisers; cultivated a relationship with local businesses and the Sacramento creative community. This beautiful dedication mural, pictured left, located behind the boutique store on R street was generously painted by artists from this group.
I resigned from IAMSAC in late August due to claims on the IAMSAC Instagram page pointing out Stevante’s abusive and manipulative behavior. I have seen articles refer to this incident as the page being “hacked”, however, the person who posted that information was given the login and granted access. These claims are attempts to silence the victims and prevent the foundation from addressing the actual abuse experienced by many from my fellow peers and board members to volunteers and marchers.
[Link to Instagram post with resignation: https://www.instagram.com/p/CEPm5hPFdvu/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link ] 3
I cannot say that I personally experienced some of the same actions, behaviors, and condescension that my colleagues have. Though I did not have such nasty rhetoric directed towards me, and though my experience was different than others, that does not mean he is not capable of being misogynist, manipulative, and malicious to others. I can recall instances of Stevante referring to women in marches as “bithces”, misgendering transgender women and men and calling them slurs like “trannies”. He has exploited the labor of women organizers on multiple occasions, attempting to claim the work as his own. The IAMSAC mission statement was written by a woman. The IAMSAC “2020 10 Point Program” was written by a woman. The business plan for Stephon’s House was written by a woman. An incident in Vacaville, organized by a woman, where Stevante tried to hijack the event as a “Stephon Clark Sunday” also resides among other heinous examples.
7.19.2020 | Candlelight Vigil | Vacaville, CA
[Link to incident in Vacaville: https://twitter.com/sweepee99/status/1287149071887503360?s=20]
Misogyny within the IAMSAC foundation manifested in numerous ways including hostility, belittling of women, upholding patriarchy, verbal and psychological abuse. Being a local “celebrity” is no excuse to be silent about abuse. Being Stephon Clark’s brother does not entitle you to anything. It surely does not grant a free pass to inflict harm on the people, especially women, of Sacramento. Rather than ignore him, the Black community--or rather the Black male leaders in Sacramento--needs to step up and demonstrate some real leadership. After years of not really being checked by anyone locally, Stevante’s ego ballooned to a point where he believes he is untouchable. “I’m Stevante Clark, get it right,” he arrogantly touted when talking to a reporter at the national March on Washington, embarrassing Sacramento. Stevante is obviously not well. His disparaging and belittling text messages to the IAMSAC member shared by Black Zebra Production’s “Community Voices” is not a lie, it is not a case of someone trying to “bring down the Black man”, but it does reflect a mere fraction of the misogynist abuse endured by women in the foundation.
A quick google search defines misogyny as a “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women”, an attitude of hatred for women, because they are women, as a fundamental basis for their oppression”. Some men recoil at the accusation of being sexist or a misogynist, similar to how white people jump back when called a racist even after a blatantly racist act. Hostility towards women can never be tolerated, especially in activist spaces, otherwise we risk indirectly teaching these actions are okay. Typically misogyny and sexism is protected in public spaces and as much as we want to believe this reality is changing, it's not. Misogyny works in tandem with patriarchy, serving to protect the man, and even now as I write this, I am critical of my own behaviors and actions which further protected Stevante. Why do I feel guilt in calling out his hateful actions? Why did I enable his toxic behavior with my own silence? Why did I wait before coming forward? Why did the other women who served in executive roles repress themselves from speaking out on their experiences? Some of my own questions can be answered by the anonymous post submitted by a fellow IAMSAC board member: “My first question to myself was why I stayed. I think it’s because I wanted to help. I wanted to see him change. I wanted to sacrifice my safety for something and someone I believed in.”. Unfortunately, regardless of how much we talk about dismantling patriarchal and misogynistic structures, women remain the sacrificial lamb of the movement who place their own safety and experiences upon the altar in effort to protect “the work” from distractions.
Now we enter an intersection requiring us to critically take a look at what “the work” is, including why “the work” and “the movement” have been placed above the safety of women. Have we prioritized “the work” above ensuring the protection and support of women? Should the protection and support of women in our space not be a given end goal of “the work”? If not, what even is “the work”? Can we conceptualize how that future looks? It’s harmful how vaguely the liberation movement is described as it fails to allow us to tangibly see it.
Hypocrisy in activist spaces reveal themselves when we ask for accountability and justice from one oppressor then turn our cheeks to the activist men rampantly abusing and manipulating activist women at the same time. Despite the many strides feminists have taken to advocate for gender equity, dismissing women who speak out on abusive behaviors is one of those customs that have become institutionalized in our spaces. Black women Panthers experienced misogyny within the party, causing prominent people like Angela Davis to step away. Even with the work of Angela Davis, Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and so many others at our disposal, we have failed to make use of their wisdom and eradicate sexist thinking from movements intended to progress our society.
Albert Einstein once said, “we are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our thinking”. Although we aim to actualize the concepts of a free society, one free for all people, we are unfortunately limited in bringing these concepts to reality in a way that accurately portrays what we mean. What does an ideal, inclusive society even look like? For some reason, we are able to understand how excusing misogynist behaviors in the workplace, in schools, among other institutions enable this behavior to perpetuate. But when it comes to our activist spaces, our community organizations, our local foundations, for some reason we drop the ball.
As much as we want better for our larger society, we have to recognize our spaces are just extensions, or subsects, of the larger social apparatus we so badly want reformed. Sexism and misogyny have absolutely no place in the Black liberation movement. There is no revolution if at the end of it you ask any group of people to continue their subjugation. We are at risk of imitating the same structures and systems we are accustomed to IF we do not actively engage in changing them. We need to recognize, address, and direct a course of action centered on changing our own spaces into the ideals we want mirrored in larger society.
Frankly, I find it disgusting that women’s physical and emotional safety is of little concern to activist men in general. We want to believe that the women volunteering their time and energy are being respected for their skills, energy and political commitment. We want to believe that if an activist male made an unwarranted advance or physically/sexually assaulted an activist woman that it would promptly and thoughtfully be dealt with by organizations and political communities. All too often “critical” and “political” people do not want to confront the fact that women are being abused by male activists in our circles.
We’re human, we’re complex beings and this situation sits at a complex crossroad of social ills that need to be confronted properly. While we call out abusers, we can also recognize his harmful actions stem from his own inner conflict and trauma. Hurt people most definitely hurt people. While on one hand we are no longer accepting Stevante’s reprehensible actions and refuse to sweep this issue under the rug, we can simultaneously acknowledge his mental illness stemming from the traumatic death of his brother, Stephon. Stevante doesn’t want to be defined by his mental health, however failing to take time for himself to honestly heal continues to define his traumatizing influence on those around him. Ever since the state took his brother in March 2018, Stevante has been in the public light for years without taking a break. Constant attention from the media, leading chants in protests, working to get AB392 “Stephon Clark law” which toughens the standard for when police are able to use force-to-kill passed in California, back to protesting in the streets. The man has never taken a break, and that takes a toll on a person’s mental state. However, mental health does not excuse toxic and manipulative behavior. Mental health does not serve as a shield from accountability nor does it evaporate the consequential pain inflicted onto the community.
I am painfully aware that we often put more emphasis on helping men stay in activist circles than supporting women through their recoveries. I know of many examples where women are forced to put up with the groups’ unwillingness to address abuse. Some will remain involved in organizations because they believe in the work. Others simply leave and become discouraged from participation. Regrettably, activist scenes are no safe space for women because misogynists and abusive men exist within them. Although Stevante stepped away from the foundation, he did so on his own accordance. We need to become more willing to call out and challenge community leaders when they speak or act in harmful ways, we need to address and speak up in our own circles, and leaders need to acknowledge the harm they cause by taking accountability for their actions when the community speaks on it. They need to be able to take criticism from the community and objectively reflect on how to improve themselves.
The activist community’s lack of holding Stevante accountable demonstrates how much we need to have this conversation as a family. How serious are we about change? Sometimes we get so consumed pointing the faults in our oppressors, we fail to reflect on where we are regressing, or stagnating, in the movement. We fail to look into the mirror and seriously consider how we permit atrocious behavior in our own community. We have a serious shortcoming in the Black liberation movement, but also in Sacramento specifically, where we iconize community leaders and allow them to get away with harmful actions for the sake of preserving the movement. For the sake of not being a “distraction”. These actions mirror the same shortcomings of the first civil rights era where assault and misogyny in the Black Panthers was also overlooked.
No more of that shit. I think society has progressed beyond the need to shield and protect abusive men.
We can no longer hypocritically demand accountability from police and politicians in one breath and internally excuse disgusting behaviors in the next. If we are going to be about it and demand a systematic change, it seriously starts with us. We cannot wait around and rely on the system to tell us how to act. We, the people of Sacramento, lead by example. That means taking accountability, acknowledging harm we may have caused, and finding solutions to move forward. We continue to dwell in this pain as a result of the failures of Stevante and IAMSAC in addressing the abuse done to our people. Time passing is not an apology. Stepping down from the leadership role is not enough. Rebranding IAMSAC with different social media handles without addressing the very serious grievances and accusations negates any serious ability for our sights for a better Sacramento to be actualized.
When we are silent. When we turn the other cheek. When we ignore and neglect to call out all hate-filled instances of misogyny, transphobia, queerphobia, we are acting with just as much violence as the actual culprit. If we refuse to turn the stones of hateful-rhetoric, misogyny, homophobia, anti-semitism, transphobia when we see it in our spaces, how can we be surprised when the state’s chickens come home to roost? An injustice in our spaces is a threat to justice anywhere.
Livestream of March 7.19.2020 | Vacaville, CA
Livestream of Vigil 7.19.2020 | Vacaville, CA