Black Lives Matter Sacramento wants people to know it actually exists

Have Angelique Ashby and Facebook page taken powerful slogan in vain?

As an official chapter of a grassroots civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter Sacramento doesn’t have a name-recognition problem so much as a messaging one. Over the past several months, chapter leader Tanya Faison says outside individuals have evoked the powerful phrase to market themselves or causes that don’t always align with the movement’s values.

And she’d like it to stop.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” she said. “We want to build. And we’re spending a lot of time explaining that we’re valid.”

The most recent misstatement occurred during a March 30 candidates’ forum at Sol Collective, which Faison didn’t attend but heard about after the fact. Titled “The Black Truth: Mayor Town Hall,” the public event was hosted by the Sacramento NAACP Youth Council and black student unions from Sacramento City College and Sacramento State University, as well as Sac State’s National Pan Hellenic Council.

Three attendees told SN&R that Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, a mayoral candidate, tried to strengthen her appeal among black voters by saying she had the support of the president of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, whom she identified as Christina Arechiga, a local community activist.

According to BLM Sacramento’s website, Arechiga isn’t a member of the 12-member chapter, which doesn’t have a president. Challenged at the forum, the attendees said Ashby stuck to her answer.

“I remember it specifically, because she was responding to my question,” said Teresa Sale. “And everybody went, ’Hmm,’ like, ’No, that’s not correct.’”

“It seemed misinformed,” added another attendee, Anita Earl.

“That’s a problem, because we don’t support her,” Faison said. “We don’t support any candidate. We’re all individuals.”

Ashby said she wasn’t sure where she first heard it, but referred SN&R to one of its stories from last year, concerning a city council meeting in which Arechiga identified herself as the local chapter’s founder.

Also problematic for the chapter was the marketing material that a countywide steering committee disseminated in September 2015, to raise support for a plan to curb the high death rates among African-American children. Under a heading that read, “Is it Black Lives Matter Sacramento?” the promo answered, in part, “If it is about police brutality it is not Black Lives Matter Sacramento.”

Exposing police brutality is one of the movement’s central goals, which started as a hashtag following the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer and evolved as the country began paying attention to the fatal police killings of unarmed blacks.

Faison says she worked things out with the Sierra Health Foundation, which changed the name of the steering committee’s official Facebook page to Black Children’s Lives Matter Sacramento.

The foundation’s Center for Health Program Management manages the steering committee. But foundation spokeswoman Kari Ida said the Facebook page was the creation of an individual, not the steering committee, even though the page identifies itself as the “official Facebook page for Sacramento County Steering Committee on the Reduction of African American Child Deaths in Sacramento County.” Ida said a request was made to the page’s creator to amend that section.

Faison says Ashby has yet to return her calls seeking an explanation. But she stressed that she isn’t looking to create conflict so much as allies.

“We want to love each other first,” she said. “Even the people that are using our name, we want to meet with and mend things without beefing.”

Something like that happened after Faison, another BLM Sacramento organizer and two members from a Bay Area chapter attended a meeting at Facebook headquarters to discuss what they felt was a lack of responsiveness to online hate speech and threats.

That was around the time that a leaked memo revealed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg chastised employees for crossing out “black lives matter” on the company headquarters’ signature walls and replacing it with “all lives matter.”

One of the things that came out of the meeting is that Black Lives Matter Sacramento now sports a circled check mark on its Facebook page, confirming its official status.

Update: The headline of this piece was changed and some content was added to clarify the name change undertaken by Sierra Health Foundation’s steering committee.