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What South Sacramento Needs


The shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police last month sparked outrage and demands for police reform and also calls for rebuilding that city's communities of color. Capital Public Radio's Sammy Caiola visited Clark's neighborhood to find out what it would take to turn things around.

SAMMY CAIOLA, BYLINE: There's a jungle gym in the south Sacramento apartment complex where Kitamu Oakley lives. But most of the kids just play in the parking lots and breezeway between the units. Oakley is 41 and a mom of five. She spent most of her life in this neighborhood where Stephon Clark was shot. It is called Meadowview. But she says up until now the city hasn't created much opportunity here.

KITAMU OAKLEY: Are they going to truly listen and do what they need to do to correct the situation? Not only the murder of that baby, not only their poverty level, not only the way the system is ramped period, point-blank. It's horrible living out here.

CAIOLA: But suddenly, in the wake of Clark's death, people seem to be paying attention. Ste'Vante Clark, Stephon's brother, has become a champion for reform and investment in Meadowview even in the throes of grief.


STE'VANTE CLARK: We're going to do libraries. We're going to do researching centers. We're going to - Stephon is going to live for generations to generations, to generations....

CAIOLA: A new movement formed just days after the shooting. The Build Black campaign is demanding accountability from the officers. But it's also asking for a lot more - rebuilding their communities, better access to health care, better schools. Meadowview is a largely black and Hispanic neighborhood. More than a third of children there live in poverty, and more than a fifth of residents are unemployed. There aren't a lot of grocery stores or parks, it's mostly auto shops and empty lots. Those numbers are from the Sierra Health Foundation, one of the leading nonprofits behind Build Black. Chet Hewitt is their president. He says Meadowview and neighborhoods like it get lost in the shadow of downtown development.

CHET HEWITT: People who have been waiting for their renaissance for far too long, who are bearing witness to this revival that is taking place in other communities. And I think, you know, people are willing to demand that change happens.

CAIOLA: Hewitt it is all over this issue. He just commissioned a report that found Sacramento's black workers make $7 less per hour than their white counterparts. When city leaders held a community forum to discuss Clark's shooting last month, several people wanted to talk about the bigger picture. James Shelby asked for a $25 million commitment for neglected neighborhoods.


JAMES SHELBY: Because what you're hearing tonight is a lack of investment. If these young people had a bit of jobs investment, we would not have the situation we have tonight.

CAIOLA: The Sacramento Kings recently announced a multi-year partnership with Build Black to support education and workforce readiness for black youth. They haven't said how much funding they'll contribute. And the mayor, Darrell Steinberg, is pledging to create a multibillion-dollar capital equity fund for the same purpose.

DARRELL STEINBERG: We need to address the systemic issues around poverty, around inequality, around investing in much more significant ways in job creation in Meadowview.

CAIOLA: Back in Meadowview, resident Kitamu Oakley isn't yet buying it.

OAKLEY: It's never going to happen for somebody like me. And it's never going to happen for a lot of these somebodies, just like me out here. The Cinderella story doesn't happen for us.

CAIOLA: It's going to take more than pledges for the future to convince people like her. For NPR News, I'm Sammy Caiola, in Sacramento. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sammy Caiola
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