An alliance of brothers

With two brothers gone, Stevante Clark eyes mayoral run to prevent future black male deaths

Stevante Clark is running for mayor, in part, to ensure that his late brother Stephon lives on.

Stevante Clark is running for mayor, in part, to ensure that his late brother Stephon lives on.

Photo by karlos rene ayala

As Stevante Clark publicly and painfully mourned the loss of his younger brother this year, he was actually grieving for two brothers.

The police killing in March of 22-year-old Stephon Clark became national news and prompted months of protests. He was another unarmed black man, shot in the backyard of his grandmother’s Meadowview home. People shared a photo of him and his two young sons online, and around the country they said his name.

But the family had already experienced deep loss. Twelve years earlier, 16-year-old De’Markus McKinnie died in what was determined to be an accidental shooting.

“People always say Stephon Clark,” Stevante told SN&R recently. “They don’t know about De’Markus.”

Stevante’s older brother belonged to a grim statistic. The Sacramento County Child Death Review Team found that from 1990 to 2009, African-American children died at twice the rate of those of other ethnicities. To reverse this trend, the Black Child Legacy Campaign was formed to offer more services to the communities most impacted. Other efforts have run parallel to this work to improve the lives of boys and young men of color, some of which were recently recognized.

In mid-November, the Obama Foundation announced the Sacramento region would receive financial support for its My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. The foundation’s initiative aims to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color by supporting programs in partner communities nationwide.

My Brother’s Keeper Sacramento Collaborative falls under the umbrella of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, which will distribute $500,000 over the next two years. The money will fund mentorship in schools, intensive case management, family-focused violence intervention and more services in neighborhood community centers.

Chet Hewitt is president and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation, a private philanthropy that addresses health inequities throughout Northern California. The Center focuses on the San Joaquin Valley region.

“Here in California we think of ourselves as a state that pays a lot of attention to issues like equity and inclusion,” he said. But given the data, “We know that we need to do better.”

As a member of the Black Child Legacy Campaign, First 5 Sacramento Commission’s recent report on the effectiveness of the programs it funds was optimistic.

Between 2013 and 2016, the county saw a 45 percent decrease in African-American infant deaths. Over the same period, there was an 18 percent drop in African-American children born preterm and 54 percent fewer sleep-related deaths. In all these categories, the disparity gap narrowed between African-American children and all other races.

But Hewitt pointed out “there is so much more work to do.”

Growing up in neighborhoods throughout Sacramento, Stevante Clark said the poverty and violence didn’t seem extraordinary.

“It felt normal because it felt like everybody was going through the same thing in our surroundings,” he said. “I’m one of the few people that made it to 26 without being in jail or in handcuffs or incarcerated until my brother [Stephon] died, unfortunately.”

The Meadowview neighborhood where his grandmother still lives is one of seven communities the Black Child Legacy Campaign serves. The others—Arden Arcade, Del Paso Heights and North Sacramento, Foothill Farms and North Highlands, Fruitridge and Stockton, Oak Park and Valley High—are home to incubator sites, where partners provide services in one place.

“The goal was to really build community capacity to intervene in this particular issue,” Hewitt said. “Support from My Brother’s Keeper will allow us to scale up that particular work.”

In California, Oakland and Los Angeles also received the Impact Community grants, and Fresno and Richmond received $50,000 seed grants. Hewitt said the Impact Communities will become a learning network, sharing their strategies with one another. That knowledge will be passed on to the two seed communities.

According to a report from The Washington Post, one area where Sacramento is making progress is the number of homicides that city police solve. The report found that 65 percent of homicides have resulted in arrest since 2007, compared to less than half in the 55 largest cities on average. But in recent years, gun violence has increased in the city.

Last December, the City Council committed $1.5 million over four years to work with the Richmond-based nonprofit Advance Peace, which connects mentors with young men known to be involved in crime and gun violence to set them on a better path. The mentors help the participants develop and work toward goals while offering them support services and job training. “Fellows” who show progress after six months can receive up to $1,000 a month.

“I’m all for whatever helps people in the under-resourced communities,” Stevante said about the program. “Everybody needs somebody to look at them and say, ’I see you.’”

Hewitt, the board chairman of Advance Peace, said the program curbs violence while offering opportunities to people from all backgrounds. That call for inclusion was made during the protests that followed Stephon Clark’s death.

“When people protested downtown, they called for housing and … social and economic interventions as a way of improving community life,” he said.

Hewitt added that it will take an all-in effort to remove barriers to young men of color becoming “the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators and civic leaders.”

Heeding that call, Stevante has talked about getting a library or a “larger-than-life” community center established in Stephon’s name. He envisions the 24-hour space housing a computer lab, counselors and an entrepreneurial boot camp. Last month, just a few days before his 26th birthday, he announced his plan to run for mayor in 2020.

“No one can fight for my brother harder than me,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure his name lives from generation to generation.”