In the Blog
A Letter to Stephon Clark’s Family
The author (centre) at the Millions March in Oakland on Saturday, December 13, 2014 (Photo by Blake Simons)
On Sunday, March 18, police shot and killed Stephon Clark in his own backyard in South Sacramento, California. He was a 22-year old Black man, and a father of two young children. More information can be found here.
The author of the following letter, Nisa Dang, is an activist, and a political organizer around gun control, abolition, and voter disenfranchisement. She is also from South Sacramento. Here is her message, and her promise, to the Clark family.
—Tina Zafreen Alam, blog editor, Shameless Magazine
To the Clark family;
I apologize that this is the moment that has brought us together. I never met Stephon, but over the last few days, I’ve called my mother about him over and over again. At 4AM. Then at 3PM. Again at 8PM. And then today, at 4AM again. Every time I learned something new about Stephon, I called my mother. When I first learned that he was murdered senselessly in his own backyard, in Sacramento, no less, I called her. When I figured out that he was murdered on 29th, right by where my family lives - where I used to work, I called her. Then I called her about his family. About you all. About his children. And I called her about how he and I had attended James Rutter together, and Florin as well. And how I never even knew of him - until this terrible, tragic moment. And I cried. And cried.
I apologize. Stephon - or Zoe as you so lovingly call him - and I must have crossed paths a million times. He hung out with my sister-in-law and my best friend. He and I must have passed each other in the gray halls at school. We must have sat at the same desks, shared the same lunches. We certainly share the same skin. So I write to you to apologize. Because the years I spent away protesting against police brutality, and against anti-Black violence, couldn’t even bring changes to my own home. My community. My own backyard. And in a way, Sacramento’s refusal to change to uplift the very people who make it, could be a result of the fact that I chose to run away from home instead of staying to fix it.
But with my apologies, I am attaching audacious hope.
I dare to believe that Stephon’s children, in growing up without a father, will remember him indefinitely, and will grow to appreciate their sweet mother Salena. I dare to believe that Stephon’s death - as tragic, needless, and violent as it was - will reinforce how much he cared about his own children. He wanted them to grow up with a father, and though this one wish has been snatched away and discarded by the police state, I am choosing to believe that the community that raised Stephon will come through once again. In South Sacramento, we take care of our own.
I dare to believe that, through all of this anger, frustration, and sadness - through all of this pain - we will rise, and we will deliver justice. My mother said to me last night that every war has its turning point, and that she believed Stephon - through his unwilling and unwitting sacrifice - has become a part of that tide of change. I hope so. Because while we are angry, while we are frustrated and sad, and while that may not bring back your beloved Zoe, I want you to know that you are not alone in your grief, or your hunger for justice. We will continue to fight.
It is my hope that you know that this isn’t your battle to fight alone. It is my selfish hope that Sacramento will come through and find a way to support you in this time, and that your family will be able to find justice. I know that more often than not, in these cases, the murderers are exonerated and are allowed and encouraged to walk free despite their crimes. But I deeply believe that we, as a nation, are at a crossroads. Stephon’s grisly, unjust murder has brought national attention to Sacramento, and the people want justice for your family. So I don’t despair. And I hope that through all you feel, you also are able to not despair about this.
But if you do, you can contact me. And I will do everything I can to make sure that the men who murdered Stephon witness the fullest extent of justice.
In love and prayer, Nisa Dang
Florin and Rutter alumna Sacramento proud
The author (right) and friend (Edrian Pamintuan) at their graduation from Florin High School, a school Stephon Clark also attended briefly.