By Michael G. Stogner
As many elected officials in San Mateo County are speaking out about the Murder of George Floyd and what an outrage that was, which it was, I’m curios as to why they never spoke out about the Homicide of Chinedu Okobi by Six San Mateo County Sheriff Employees on October 3, 2018, on El Camino Real, San Bruno/Millbrae. December 31, 2018 San Mateo County Coroners Office ruled the manner of death to be a Homicide same as George Floyd. March 1, 2019 San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe held a Press Conference where he announced no charges would be filed against the 4 Deputies and 1 Sergeant he did not mention the sixth Employee the CSO. He announced that the Coroner of this county labeled Chinedu Okobi’s death a Homicide. How is it that he filed no charges? The SMDJ reporter was sitting in front of me at that meeting where D.A. Wagstaffe said it was a Homicide. Her article the next day left that FACT out of the story.
How is it that a Belmont former Mayor and Councilmember doesn’t mention San Mateo County’s Homicide by Law Enforcement of Chinedu Okobi that occurred less than 2 years ago in her own backyard? Remember there was NO 911 call he was simply a Black man walking on the sidewalk when Deputy Wang got attracted to him.
Her letter in todays SMDJ, A world in transition
Mr. Floyd slowly died before our eyes and I cried. Mr. Arbery was hunted on video. Mr. Brooks was shot in the back and Ms. Taylor’s death occurred around the first shelter-in-place orders of COVID-19 in her home. The list is painfully growing.
These murders are shocking. We should be shocked. The circumstances of their deaths are horrifying. We should be horrified. The frequency of these killings captured on film is alarming and seemingly unprecedented.
For the first time in modern history, the entire globe was deeply affected one way or another by Mr. Floyd dying at the hands of individuals paid to protect and serve. We will never know what the man was thinking the moment he held his hand deep in his pocket and pressed his knees in the crease of Mr. Floyd’s neck. He was so calm and confident staring into the camera; the sunglasses on his head never even shifted for a full 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Mr. Floyd painfully knew his fate; he called for his mother and acknowledged out loud, “I am about to die.” What may feel like an “unprecedented” frequency of deaths is nothing new to Black Americans; it is part of our existence. Even in 2020, a sinister belief fought by generations of Black Americans revealed itself unfiltered once again. We are not equals, but presumptively perceived as dangerous, inferior and criminals to some. Our skin color is seen before our humanity.
Although I have given my daughter every social and economic advantage I could afford to help protect her from a lifetime of unconscious bias and cruel racism, the day of reckoning always comes. I wanted to at least protect her youth. I was wrong. My focus should have been on preparing her to change the world, not just her world. It’s my responsibility to show her how it’s done.
So to dismantle the hate and disarm the oppression, I must produce results for all and chip away at exclusionary rhetoric at the local level. I am reminded of this at the beginning of every City Council meeting, where we stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. There is no lasting path to improving our everyday lives unless we fight for “liberty and justice of all.” The democracy we have inherited is fragile; it fades and it frays. But, it has the resiliency to evolve and embrace; it is worth working hard to nurture and improve. And, we each have a part to play to sustain the improvement. America cannot be owned by one culture, one religion, one language, one idea and one way. We must live as a community working together — loving, living and learning.
The excellence of this nation lies in the ability of individuals to repair its faults. Educate yourself on the lives of others. Demand change of yourself and those around you. Have difficult conversations. Protest in the forum that feels right, but do so safely. Eradicate your own cynicism. Vote. Trust your voice and your actions will make a difference.
As a mayor and member of a city council, I have learned that democracy is slow, incremental and difficult work that requires dividing up a small pie for many people with different tastes and priorities. With the abundance of problems to solve, let’s not be the “10-day nation” MLK feared.
As a leader, as a mother and as a friend, I implore you to continue the fight for justice for each other and for our children. We have the ability to write the next chapter. Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, we can succeed where many have only dreamed. While I am weary, I am resolved with hope and passion to make this a better world for all. I invite you to join me in this journey.
Davina Hurt is a member of the Belmont City Council and the city’s immediate past mayor.