The Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) board on June 3 approved a proclamation to honor Juneteenth.
That holiday celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. This year’s Juneteenth will be held on Friday, June 19.
The CSD board governs the Cosumnes Fire Department and Elk Grove’s parks and recreation system.
Brewer, who is African American, spoke about the importance of Juneteenth during a time of worldwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination against African Americans.
“Obviously, for me this is very personal,” he said. “What I saw last week made me very angry – beyond angry, because a lot of things that my folks have expressed and have told people over the years that were either ignored or (people) said, ‘Well, get over it.’”
Brewer addressed the police killings of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor – he noted that Taylor worked as an emergency medical technician before she was fatally shot in her sleep.
The CSD director also spoke about an incident in 1982 when an officer contacted his mother during a traffic stop in Fresno and saw her nephew who is half white and half black.
“’What’s that white baby doing in your car?’” Brewer quoted the officer.
He compared racism and bigotry to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We talk about the coronavirus being an illness, a disease, a pandemic, but we never talked about racism and bigotry as a disease, as a mental illness that needs to be treated,” Brewer said.
The CSD director quoted Langston Hughes’s 1951 poem, “A Dream Deferred” after he addressed the history of racial discrimination against African Americans. Hughes wrote, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it drop like a raisin in the sun or fester like a sore and then run? ... Or does it sag like a heavy load, or does it explode?”
During his speech, Brewer praised the peaceful protest gatherings held last week at the corner of Laguna Boulevard and Bruceville Road in Elk Grove. He also complemented the CSD staff for using their district’s Facebook page to support the national protest movement against police brutality and racism.
“Cosumnes CSD is committed to removing systemic barriers to social justice and believes everybody in our community should feel safe and connected,” the CSD posted on Facebook.
CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno later issued a statement of support for the protestors.
“It’s not time for us to be silent and it’s not okay to be complacent,” she said. “If we all fail to acknowledge the systemic racism that exists within our institutions, we will not see an end to the violence against black people, and the list of deaths will only grow.”
Moreno praised the CSD staff’s work in diversifying its staff, including its fire department, but she said they could do better. She asked the staff to help improve the district by having focus groups or “listening circles” that includes stakeholders from the local black community.
Brewer said that he liked her proposal and he later added that the staff should carefully think about the lives of people who have different backgrounds.
“Really think about someone you know and think about what their life is really like,” he said. “We’ll all benefit if we thought about someone different from our own race or ethnicity, and really think about what their life is like on their side of the fence.”