While looking at a wall mural of Martin Luther King Jr. in the heart of Downtown Bakersfield, the muralist, Thomas Zachery said you cannot help but stop in your tracks. He completed the tribute to MLK this past summer, during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It should be on every wall in the country,” Zachery said. “People don’t think about things unless they’re stuck in their face.”
This past year, the reality of police brutality in our nation NAACP Bakersfield President, Patrick Jackson said, was something we couldn’t turn our faces from, thanks in part to social media.
“We’ve seen great movements of people coming together to want change, and people of all walks of life across the world that supported this change in America,” Jackson said. “This issue we’ve been having for so many years, has raised its head and the outcry is starting to be heard.”
It’s an outcry echoed over generations, reminiscent of the Civil Rights movement that King helped lead.
“Black lives matter has made people stop, talk, and think about what we’ve done, which as far as I’m concerned is not much, and what the future is going to be,” Zachery said. “We’re the only ones that can change that.”
And if King were here today, Jackson said, “He would say his dream has yet to come to fruition.”
Here in Bakersfield, Jackson said there are still issues with police brutality, health, and employment opportunities for the Black community.
When asked about the effectiveness of town halls held with law enforcement and black leaders in the community, Jackson said they brought more awareness to the issues than they did actionable change.
“It was more of a band aid, than a surgery that needs to happen,” Jackson said.
Some of that deep healing he calls for: an independent police oversight committee over the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and a conscious effort to create opportunities for minorities.
In regards to the former, The State of California Department of Justice is having KCSO implement a five-year action plan following investigation of their practices.
Zachery agreed that there is still a lot of work left to be done in our country. Like King’s words etched between 18th and M street, he echoed: “the time is always right to do what is right.”