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Rewriting the Narrative

rewriting-the-narrative

Earlier this year Sacramento Bee covered a story on Railroad Drive where the trail was being blocked not far from a local campsite that has been known as home for almost over 10 years now to many of our local unhoused neighbors. With the numbers for people experiencing homelessness both in our county and state rising, Sacramento Bee Reporters alongside other known local and large press affiliations such as Cap Radio,Sacramento local cbs news, and others jump at the opportunity to report on this social issue from what I consider an oppressively neutral position. A position that leaves out the actual day to day experiences of the affected marginalized group as well as any general education that the public might require to even comprehend this sensitive and economic issue. If that wasn’t already problematic, there is also the issue of local press taking these opportunities to solely stand on a broken image of ‘social justice’ by using their platforms and following base to mass produce quick off fluffer pieces that go without details, data or relevant context and in some cases, taken out of context all together.

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Sharon Jones and Joyce Williams, local to Sacramento and residents of the campsite near Railroad Road first met with staff of Sacramento Bee during this road block. “They only just started caring,” says Joyce to me during our interview together where I was invited to her and her wife Sharons’ cozy camp. ‘`No on O '' banners hang from their well organized (and quite spacious) tarped off tent, Sharon works in the gardening industry and I observed her on her day off painting around stencils reading “House Keys Not HandCuffs;” when I originally arrived. She states, “I was vulnerable when I met with SacBee press. We’d been interviewed before and worked with Black Zebra (local press) who had made us so comfortable. I honestly had expected the same integrity Black Zebra gave us, but I’m learning that's just not the case.” Sharon and Joyce recounted to me their original experience with SacBee and its associates, “We did two articles,” Sharron explains to me; “I didn’t have any issues until they took our photo from the last article and used it on a completely different story.” She continues; “I never even met the person who had written that article.”


We saw the board approval of Measure O on August 24th which if adopted will directly be affecting the margin of community members who are displaced, living outside and camping. Measure O, is being left to vote after the bill went into effect September 23rd, only a month later. The whole of this new law creeping in has supporters on both sides at their most sensitive and passionate as the whole of people affected by the bill will be exposed to loosing all of their possessions and homes in sweeps, being removed from their camps, violence and harassment from law enforcement officials and business officials as well as receiving tickets and fines for sleeping or camping outside. Sharon and Joyce were only a couple of voices speaking for many when they met with Renee, (photographer for SacBee) on how the bill would affect them.Theresa Clift and Sam Stanton Author of the referenced article posted, never even showed up to interview, we learn from Sharon, “Renee just came, took a couple pictures, asked a couple of questions and left.” It was only 24 hours later when the humble couple witnessed the same photo on the front page of Sac Bee connected to a story that had nothing to do with the measure O interview Joyce and Sharon agreed to alongside them having no knowledge to who the author even was using their photo in the first place. “We’re not stock footage.” Joyce shares with me her reaction to seeing her and her wife’s photos being recycled by the press. “I was shocked, I didn’t really know how to react so we reached out.” Sharon and Joyce’s photos were recycled over 5 times for unrelated stories by several News and Press platforms that they did not consent to and in most situations,never even had knowledge they were being used. “Cap Radio did an interview with us and then published it without even asking us.” Sharon explains her experience. “These articles were appearing on other websites and platforms and just giving out so much misinformation. Our picture would be attached to things we don’t even support or know about.”

Early September I met Theresa Clift (Author, Sac Bee) at a pro cop & ‘anti crime’ protest that was countered and crashed by a community cares protest that believes in solutions that don’t involve funding the police. I participated in this protest as an advocate for care and not cops, Clift interviewed and covered the entire action as press alongside CBS13 and other local news. Sharon and Joyce were also at this protest as care not cops advocates. Firstly what any of the press neglected to report was that counter protesters showed up and immediately received backlash. The police were called on a peaceful protest by a protester within the hour we arrived, completely blocking off the road. Counter protesters were handing out free food, socks, earplugs and drinks to all community members as well as communicating and checking on general safety and wellbeing of opposing protesters. There were more moments than not in my whole observation and participation in the protest where I witnessed first hand a community having a conversation with one another where differences of opinion weren’t used as petty ultimatums. The majority of the press won’t report this. Situations occur and cause calls for reaction so logically the whole of the protest was never expected for oppositions to come to any immediate understanding and what the press did and will report remains to be a narrative that realistically oppresses and targets the minority members of the community who are directly affected by police interactions and homelessness. A video of myself and another woman screaming at each other in the heat of offensively racist remarks being made on her part to specifically trigger me was used by The Sacramento Bee to highlight the ‘confrontations between protesters.’ This highlight failed to include the context of how or why I had gotten to that loud and legal point. This highlight uses aggressive tone and language like ‘confrontational’ and my brown skin to create a story that only contributes to the stereotypes that already exist and oppresses the experiences of BIPOC already present in our County and country. These narratives fail to deliver relevant or true elements of a story and tastelessly open up a platform for discrimination. When I asked Sharon what was important for her to say she answered, “Everyone just gets to hear ‘that ‘agenda and not everybody in land park feels 'that' way.

"They were acting up when we got there, they weren't happy to see us.’’ Joyce Williams, community homeless advocate recalls the protest. “I had to go to where the excitement was!” Retired police officer Barbra Deer was protesting for the ‘anti crime’ neighborhood campaign when she unprovokingly shoved and pushed Joyce. “She was talking shit when we got there! We were just dancing.” Joyce recalls initially being excited by the energy and music, there was a vibe that was pleasant and enjoyable and she wanted to be a part of it. She recalls listening to fellow protesters speaking with opposition on crime rates and ethical solutions to dealing with those present numbers. Deer had already had a previous altercation with an opposing protester right before assaulting Joyce. “She told me, I was in her way.” Local press did not report this but instead created a narrative that highlighted the reaction of a protester defending Joyce, who had been frozen with shock by the interaction. The same local press associated with Sac Bee that are responsible for using photos and videos without consent on whatever social issue they feel fit are responsible for this selective information. Joyce’s wife shared how this all affected her. “They paint us like the bad guy, I’m exhausted, Joyce got pushed and when I saw the news, it made it feel like it was our fault.” Sharon speaks for her community, “It's like people rely on us for the news just to draw attention; it’s stressful out here. We’re worried about other people too. We’re responsible for people too.” The couple tells me about the increased ranger activity in relation to excessive press exposure near their camp and feeling the pressure of measure O taking effect and what it could mean for the home that they’ve made together houseless in the last 6 years.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Christa Canady

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