Bakersfield College hosted a variety of virtual activities to commemorate Juneteenth and addressed several conversations on racial issues in the community with the Danny Morrison Show, local, statewide, and national leaders, and more called “#LightACandle: A Juneteenth Conversation” throughout June 3-19, to mark the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.
“I believe that in the 50 years since King asked this question, we have made enormous progress that we can and should be proud of. But we need to hear what George Floyd’s Memorial Day death – and our national reactions to it – are saying,” said BC President Sonya Christian in a message addressing the death of George Floyd. “It is a long and painful history, which makes it harder to hear. It is a dark and confusing time, which makes it harder to see how to move forward. But as Bakersfield College Renegades, we owe it to our community, to our veterans, and we each owe it to George Floyd, to join together, listen with humility, and to bring light that can illuminate the way ahead.”
The majority of the series took place live on Danny Morrison Media’s Facebook over a two-week period.
In a discussion between Morrison, Bakersfield Police Department Chief Greg Terry and Assistant Police Chief Joe Mullins, Morrison declared the psyche of the department has to land in one of three categories: Either “A,” the hierarchy of BPD is oblivious and have no idea of the magnitude of the problem and suffering internally, “B,” they are “ignorant” and know there is a problem but refuse to do what is necessary, or “C,” they are aware of the problems but are “comfortable with the narrative.”
Mullins responded by agreeing with every word in Morrison’s opening speech, especially the word accountable.
When asked if they agree the BPD has a problem, Mullins responded by stating they do and should hold themselves accountable but “just because you are not aware of every incident that has happened, not aware of every discipline that gets handed out, or everybody who gets fired. I can’t help that.”
Congressman Kevin McCarthy and T.J. Cox also joined one of the conversations by video message.
“Juneteenth is a day that many consider [being] America’s second Independence Day,” McCarthy said. “It’s marked the end of slavery and it started our country on a path that all men are created equal. The scars and wounds of slavery are still there, we are all still healing.We will not stop fighting for a more perfect union. [Floyd] should still be alive today, as should Pat Underwood, David Dorn, and countless others.”
McCarthy shared that he is proud of the effort the community is making, especially BC and the BPD. He said they are working to adapt local police academy classes to include topics like racial conflict.
Cox shared that growing up as an Asian-American his experience with racism is on a personal level and does not want any child to live with that feeling.
“I know my story does not deal with the tragedy of [Floyd] and Breonna Taylor… But we all know that racism has long-lasting effects on those who experience it and we are all responsible for changing,” said Cox.
One of the conversations Morrison led also included a live discussion with three generation Z students between the ages of 13 to 20, two of whom are current BC students.
“Generation Z and the millennial population are the ones that have to lead us forward,” said Morrison.
BC student Janell Gore shared the first time she faced racism was when she was in kindergarten when a classmate told her she was not invited to her birthday party because she couldn’t have a black kid at her house.
When asked if they are scared of living as a black person in general, BC student Amaya Williams said yes.
“Not just from cops but from people who are bigoted and racist. There some people who want to do worse things to me than a so-called bad cop would do. Like with the protesting that has been going around, some protesters have been harassed, followed, even had their car sit on fire and threaten their homes. I’m scared of those people and the cops who protected them,” said Williams.
The final conversation included a video message from Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh.
“In the city of Bakersfield, this tragedy has created an opportunity for our community members to share their pain, frustration, and yearning for change. Our community is ready to move beyond conversation and into action, but we must continue to listen to one another,” said Goh.
Goh promised three commitments to the citizens of Bakersfield; To continue to serve and support disadvantaged communities, public safety, and economic development.