Former NBA player Matt Barnes stood at a microphone and opened up about explaining Stephon Clark’s death to his kids.
“I got two 9-year-old boys that look just like this, and I fear for them,” the former Sacramento Kings player and hometown favorite told a crowd at Cesar Chavez Plaza on Saturday afternoon. “How do we explain to our kids that just because of the color of your skin, people aren’t going to like you? That’s not fair. But that’s something you have to explain to your kids every day.”
Barnes openly discussed issues of being black in America, policing and equity at what was coined a “peace rally” to honor Clark, whose immediately family — including his widow and children — attended.
At one point, Barnes held one of Clark's sons and promised to be a “driving force” in the fight for reform.
“This is not a Sacramento problem, this is a nationwide problem,” said Barnes, who also helped organize and pay for the event.
The occasion also featured religious leaders and community organizers, who voiced support for police reforms and increased investment in Sacramento’s neighborhoods of color. Clark’s family members also gave heartfelt speeches.
Kristena Rodriguez-Johnson, who said her son was Clark’s best friend and described herself as “a second mother to Stephon,” talked about how Clark loved Sacramento and being a father.
“Nothing we can do is gonna bring him back, but I pray to God that we bring change,” Rodriguez-Johnson said. “I’m so worried I have to teach them [our children] to put their hands up and get down on their knees.”
Jamilia Land, who introduced herself as Clark’s aunt, talked about his brother Ste’Vante Clark’s public outbursts. “His brother Ste’Vante is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” she claimed, adding that Ste’Vante Clark has now lost two siblings to gun violence.
“This is why this baby says ‘We need a resource center,’” she said of Ste’Vante Clark, who has asked Mayor Darrell Steinberg to build a library and a 24-hour resource center in his brother’s Meadowview neighborhood.
“Where are the mental health professionals in our community? He needs help,” Land told the audience.
The rally came nearly two weeks after officers shot Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ Meadowview home. His grandmother, Sequita Thompson, was in attendance at Saturday’s event.
Barnes vowed to not give up on pursuing change. “You have my word, being from here, that I’m going to do everything. I’m sitting down with the mayor, I’m sitting down with the gang leaders, and I’m going to be in your community and I’m going to be the driving force behind Sacramento,” he said.
At the rally’s end, Barnes announced that he would form a college fund for Clark’s sons and other children who’ve lost a parent to police violence.