Spoken truth

The Black Child Legacy Campaign is giving Sacramento’s emerging performers a chance to voice their fear and strength

A series of videos from young spoken-word poets premiered May 29 at the Crocker Art Museum as part of a mission to discuss violence and death in Sacramento neighborhoods.

The jarring performances were sponsored by the Black Child Legacy Campaign and can be viewed at blackchildlegacy.org by clicking on “Poetic Service Announcements.” The campaign, which partnered with Sacramento Area Youth Speaks to produce the videos, is working to address the disproportionate death rate of African-American youth in certain parts of the city and county.

“Sacramento soil knows young, black dead bodies and rotting corpses like a battlefield,” Simone Hall says in one of the videos. “This is the war that America refuses to acknowledge.”

While the death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark at the hands of two Sacramento Police Department officers thrust the region into the national spotlight, other deaths have garnered less attention. Hill notes in her video that black children are twice as likely to die in Sacramento as any other ethnicity.

That grim statistic was first identified by a 2013 Blue Ribbon Commission. The commission found that from 1990 to 2009, roughly one out of every 1,000 African-American youth died in the county, as opposed to one out of every 2,000 youth of all other races. The commission set goals of reducing African-American child deaths by 10-20 percent within five years. Sierra Health Foundation president and CEO Chet Hewitt told SN&R that an assortment of groups are making progress.

“For the first time in a long time, we’re actually seeing small but encouraging declines in the number of low birth-weight African-American babies,” Hewitt said. “We’re also beginning to see some [pretty significant] impact … in the number of sleep-related infant deaths in the African-American community.”

Supervisor Phil Serna told SN&R the progress doesn’t shield local agencies from blowback for Clark’s death, but it does “change the circumstances a bit when it comes to what otherwise [would] be kind of dangerous throwaway claims that we don’t give a damn.”

He added, “Cause that’s not the case—we obviously do.”