A Black Lives Matter (BLM) art event was held at Fresno City Hall on Thursday where hundreds of people gathered to paint the motto and group’s name on P Street.
Fresno City Council proclaimed the day, June 18, 2020, as “Black Lives Matter Day.”
The event was constructed and led by DJ Kay Rich nearly two weeks ago, and was planned in conjunction with the Fresno State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Fresno City Council.
“I went on my social media and a lot of people were messaging me saying, ‘We want to paint “Black Lives Matter” in front of city hall,” Rich said. “I thought it was only right to take initiative and mobilize and come up with some type of strategy to make this happen.”
Rich directed those interested in kickstarting the event to the City of Fresno’s Instagram account and with the help of City Manager Wilma Quan, the event was put in place.
Along with Rich, the Fresno State NAACP led by president D’Aungillique Jackson, were once again vital in helping put together the event. This event took place almost three weeks after they helped organize a peaceful protest and march through downtown Fresno with thousands of spectators in attendance.
Numerous Fresno City council members were in attendance for the festivities and proclamation —-as well, including council president Miguel Arias, Councilmember Esmeralda Soria and Mike Karbassi.
“You see how peaceful it is? You see how all we’re doing is expressing our right to have a voice, so people in a building like this [Fresno City Hall] can hear us?” Karbassi said. “That is what the movement is about. It is about change, about peace and making sure we have equity.”
One of the main messages that the council highlighted was those in the Fresno community keeping the members of the council accountable when it comes to policies, budget changes and investing in the Black and Brown communities.
“As we protest and march in a peaceful way, I do want to make sure that you keep us accountable. That this council and this mayor do much more,” Soria said. “It is about policy. It is about budget changes…I am more interested in seeing millions of dollars going into our Black and Brown communities.”
“What happens in there [Fresno City Hall] over the next coming weeks, the next coming months and next coming years will be much more credible.”
The council also announced today that the Fresno Police Department will ban the use of chokeholds by its law enforcement following a unanimous vote to remove the controversial tactic.
The controversy surrounding the use of chokeholds by law enforcement dates back to the 1970s and ‘80s, following numerous deaths by the Los Angeles Police Department. Those deaths led to the banning of the use of chokeholds in 1980 by LAPD and other departments nationwide.
But the tactic has been used by law enforcement, most notably in the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd.
The event also comes one day before the annual celebration of Juneteenth, which is a day that commemorates the reading of federal orders for the city of Galveston, Texas by Union army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming that all slaves were now free in Texas on June 19, 1865.
Although not a federal holiday, nearly 46 states recognizes the day as a state or ceremonial holiday to commemorate the end of slavery, nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation formally freed the slaves in 1862.
During the event, Jackson explained the history of Juneteenth and freedom from slavery, but said that despite the celebration there is more to be accomplished. She added the Black community is still craving the taste of freedom in America.
“Please I beg you, do not get liberation confused with freedom,” Jackson said. “We have seen time and time again how Black people have been set free. Time and time again we have tasted liberation. But have we tasted freedom?”
Jackson went on to also address the 13th Amendment and the systemic racism in America currently taking place.
“The key phrase we hear in the 13th Amendment is, ‘neither nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime,” Jackson said. “As a result of that amendment, we know that black people today are imprisoned five times as much as white people. We know that 42 percent of children detained are Black. We know that 30 percent of children arrested are Black.”
Both Rich, the Fresno State NAACP and Fresno City Council have numerous events in Fresno lined up for the future as the fight for Black lives continues to rage on in Fresno and the nation.
“It is a very emotional time with everything going on in the world, but I think it is important for use to get uncomfortable before we can get comfortable,” Rich said. “This is not a victory; this is a step in the right direction. So just like our council member said, we need to hold them accountable and that’s what we’re going to do.”