‘Just a beginning’: Black Lives Matter sign to be installed in Sacramento’s Oak Park

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks
·2 min read
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It’s a simple sign for a clear message, backed by the city of Sacramento: Black lives matter.

A wooden structure spelling the words “Black Lives Matter,” the movement and global rallying cry for racial justice, will be installed at McClatchy Park, located in one of Sacramento’s historically Black neighborhoods. Unanimously approved by the City Council during its Tuesday meeting, the sign is covered in hundreds of names memorializing unarmed Black people killed by law enforcement.

Community advocates say they hope the sign will be a symbol of a commitment from city officials to improve the lives of Black residents in Sacramento.

“More than performative gestures, we need real substance to follow this,” said Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter Sacramento.

The sign’s creator, a white Sacramento resident named Zach Trowbridge, built the structure in response to the police killing of George Floyd last May. It became a fixture of protests last summer, traveling from Capitol Park to eventually Curtis Park.

“It’s not lost on me that this is the month that the trials for the officers who killed George Floyd is beginning in Minneapolis,” said Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela. “The timing is always right to do what’s right.”

‘Our park’: Sacramento considers installing Black Lives Matter sign in Oak Park

Councilman Rick Jennings said he hopes the structure can serve as an educational tool that students from Father Keith B. Kenny and Oak Ridge elementary schools “can take a field trip to and write a report on and talk about why Black lives matter.”

“This sign is going to make people reflect,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said. “To think and to talk and to act. To remedy, to try to remedy, great injustices.”

It felt particularly meaningful to place the sign in Oak Park, Faison said, a neighborhood where residents of color have acutely felt the impacts of rising rents and heavy policing.

“Oak Park, the neighborhood association, is absolutely jazzed to have this sign up, but we know that there are bigger problems,” said Gracie Phillips, president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. “We have to recognize that this is not an answer, this is just a beginning.”

Black Lives Matter signs have become a common feature in Sacramento, taped onto apartment windows and staked into suburban lawns. During the George Floyd protests, Sacramento artist Demetris “BAMR” Washington spray painted “Black Lives Matter” onto the grass medians of the Capitol Mall with the help of volunteers, backed by a local art collective and city officials.

The wooden structure, which stands roughly 16 feet across and just under 6 feet, will not be permanent, and Trowbridge will be responsible for maintaining it.

Some city council members suggested eventually touring the wooden structure to different parks across the city and some community members have advocated that a Black local artist be ultimately commissioned to fabricate a permanent Black Lives Matter sign at McClatchy Park.