At last Monday’s commemoration ceremony for Stephon Clark, civil rights attorney Ben Crump beckoned Stevante Clark away from the crowd, calling out “Let’s go, commissioner!” before escorting him offsite.
Stephon Clark died a year ago last week at age 22. His older brother Stevante Clark, 26, has vowed to fight for Stephon’s legacy. And his role on a new Sacramento government commission, helping city leaders decide how to invest in low-income neighborhoods, could get him closer to building libraries and resource centers in his brother’s name.
It’s all a big shift from last March, when Stevante Clark garnered national attention for jumping on the mayor’s desk during a City Council meeting and behaving erratically at demonstrations. That April, he was arrested for suspicion of assault and making death threats, and sought care at a psychiatric facility.
He says that’s all behind him now, but he’s still healing from a tragedy that changed his life forever. CapRadio asked him about the 12 months since he lost his younger brother.
CapRadio: How has your family been grieving Stephon?
Stevante Clark: The family, we’re able to come together because we feel each other’s pain. I don’t think [people] really understand what we’re going through. It’s different when you don’t have the time to grieve like the normal people who get to grieve in these situations. You got everybody in your face, asking questions, trying to get you for money and political campaigns, all different things that we went through post-Stephon. Because when Stephon died, it was like an election cycle. It was just weird. Everything was just weird. So, us coming together and realizing that everyone has an agenda, it made it a lot easier for us.
What do you want people to know about your mental health crisis last year?
People don’t see that that was my moment of pain. A lot of things that happened during that time I really don’t remember. … I was very upset. I felt like the city not only failed me and my family, but everybody. I feel like I was ready for something to be done right then and there, not knowing that it would take almost a year. I wanted things done now. I was so irritated things weren’t getting done, I felt like I had to be controversial or make my voice heard or let these people know “How dare you?” by any means necessary? But what I was doing was taking the focus off my brother and people were looking at me. And that’s what I didn’t want.
How have you changed since then?
I feel like I don’t need to demand so much. … When I’m going to these meetings and all that, my thing is just to listen. …
Politics is tricky. Teddy Roosevelt once said speak softly and carry a big stick. Me, I just carried the big stick. There wasn’t no speaking softly. But now that I’m into politics now and I’m starting to see how things operate, now I see why he said speak softly. You have to. These people are manipulative. So, when I’m talking to these people and I’m letting them know that Stephon existed, Stephon was real — he wasn’t just this or that — I feel like it’s this point where they’re like “That’s fucked up, I’m glad it wasn’t me, I’m glad it wasn’t my family.” And they can just go on with their daily lives. … So, even though I want them to realize Stephon existed — Stephon was here, Stephon was a real person, he meant something to me — I want to come in a tone where I don’t ruin my connections for the future.
What would you want people to know about Stephon?
Stephon liked to gamble. He was a risk-taker. He was a collector of items, like shoes, watches, certain things. He liked to read, very athletic. You could catch him playing basketball. He’ll be at the mall shopping. After the mall shopping, he’ll get his nails done. He loved his kids.
I had a lot of expectations for him, because he had kids. I was hard on him. … I would tell him “the grape cannot be who its real potential is if it stayed on the vine, you have to leave and grow and get pressed and that’s the only way it can be used.” And I think jail pressed him, I think he came out real pressed. He got the point.
His life meant more. He had so many things to do. He was just now fine-tuning himself. And as soon as he started to get it right, his life suddenly stopped. It hurts. … I feel like I should have been able to be there and take those bullets. And I know my big brother, if he was here, would’ve felt the same way. ’Cause that’s how we are, for our young ones.
Stephon was very mature. He made mistakes, but he learned from his mistakes. He learned from the past, what he did wrong. He was trying to regain his life back in his control and use it for positive things. He wanted to go back to school.
What’s your plan now?
I want so much done for my brother and for future generations. I feel like I’m obligated to make sure his name doesn’t die, and to make sure things get done. Those officers gotta be held accountable one way or another.
My thing is, what does justice look like for Stephon? It hurts. ’Cause when I meet with families who’ve been affected through this, some of them wait eight years, nine years, six years, seven years. And I’ll be like, “How do you guys do that?” How? Money would never fix the pain. Condolences and prayers and thoughts will never fix the pain. “I’m sorrys” will never help. These bills that get passed, they won’t help, either, ’cause Stephon is dead. ...
We got robbed. Not just us, but Sacramento, the nation.
What can you do that would make a difference?
He would love to know that kids are learning and reading and feeling safe in an environment under his name, for him, dedicated to him. A kid could go “I got my first book from Stephon’s House,” or “I heard his grandmother read a book to us for the first time and my kids are gonna go see her read that same book.” To have those spaces where we can be active in the community. We want it to be influential. To know his name could bring influence to somebody’s life, despite what happened to him.
Because what happened to him was horrible. He was shot by officers mistaking his cell phone for a gun in my grandmother’s backyard. There’s no nothing in that. ... It’s not like he won the NBA championship or dropped a hot album. He was here, trying to get into the house, died.
Now, how do we turn that horrible situation into something positive, into something meaningful, into something people can take with them?