Latrell Ludd pulls a frozen pizza out of the oven and slides it onto a plate, as his 9-year-old son, Latrell Jr., pulls a soda can out of the fridge and pops the top. The duo dig into dinner as the sounds of kids playing in their Arden-Arcade apartment complex die down with the setting sun.
The 40-year-old single dad has made the apartment homey with his own artwork and Latrell’s favorite games. But he says he’s looking for somewhere safer for his son to grow up.
“Everything is about him,” Ludd says. “Before I stick a move or even make a move, I try to figure out if it’s gonna be a good thing or a good timing. All the things that’ll affect him and his situation, I always think of that first.”
Parents in Sacramento’s low-income, largely black neighborhoods say a proactive family figure like Ludd isn’t always there for kids. And children in these ZIP codes die at more than twice the rate of white children from homicide, child abuse, unsafe sleeping conditions and stress-related birth complications, according to Sacramento County.
To counter that trend, the Black Child Legacy Campaign recently launched Loving Brown Babies, a web page where African-American families share their hardships and successes in hopes of helping other families.
Nickey Whiteside, whose 17-year-old son Deonte Whiteside was fatally shot in Elk Grove two years ago, said it’s easy for kids who don’t get love and attention growing up to head down more dangerous paths.
“If these kids left outta Sacramento and seen something else, it’ll change a life,” she said. “But if you have nothing to be excited about, no hope … what they gonna do?”
She said she talked to her kids about gangs and racial bias by police at a young age, and kept a close eye on their social lives.
“I would explain to them,” she said. “Cause kids, they don’t know. We are a family. We have to make sure that we’re OK. [My son] didn’t do anything without talking to me.”
The Black Child Legacy Campaign is also working to educate and reassure kids in light of police killings this year. In Meadowview — Stephon Clark’s neighborhood and one of the target areas of the campaign — Jackie Rose helps lead the Freedom School, a literacy program for low-income students.
On a recent morning in the classroom, they read a book called Something Happened In Our Town. It was about a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man, and it covered weighty topics such as injustice, racial bias and inequity.
The Stephon Clark situation brings about all those questions in kids’ minds, and parents don’t know how to answer the questions.
“The Stephon Clark situation brings about all those questions in kids’ minds, and parents don’t know how to answer the questions,” Rose said, adding that the book puts things in perspective.
Since Clark’s death in March, multiple community members have called out for trauma counseling in schools. Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s office is currently training volunteer mental health professionals to fan out and provide resources in affected communities.
For Latrell Ludd, it’s all about making sure his son stays on a path to success.
“I want him to do better than I did,” he said. “I want him to go to college. I want him to make something for himself. And I want him to be knowledgeable about being African-American, about the situations that happen.”
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