City of Arcata supported a Dialogue on Race forum at the D Street Neighborhood Center on March 22.
Mayor of Arcata Sofia Pereira attended the forum in hopes to create a space for the Arcata community to discuss racial discrimination.
“There’s a lot of pain in this community based on what people of color have experienced here. It’s not going to be overnight, ending that pain,” Pereira said. “The more we have a space for these conversations and concrete actions, we can take [those] as individuals and as a community. I think that can get us to place of healing.”
Pereira wanted to absorb everything that was discussed in the forum in order to get a sense of the right direction to take moving forward.
“As for the next steps, I heard the feedback for making sure that we have representation from the Arcata Police Department, along with making sure we’re inviting Humboldt State’s administration,” Pereira said.
The City of Arcata gave Pastor Roger Williams the opportunity to facilitate the discussion on race.
“I’m here because it’s a heart condition of mine, where I want to see people come together. I know it’s not easy, but it’s a passion of mine,” Williams said. “In a potentially charged environment with potentially angry people, with city hall here in the same building and in the backdrop of an unsolved murder, it went well.”
Williams said that the point of the forum gue was to make people more aware of the fact that we live in a community where racism exists. He wanted to make those unaware of it to address racism in their community.
“It’s not so much about black folk standing up and talking about race because we’ve been doing it forever,” Williams said. “It’s white folks taking some responsibility for themselves and not just not taking responsibility for being woke, but trying to wake other people. Come with an open mind and with the intent to understand [than] just reply. That’s where grassroots change happens.”
Community member Erik Rydberg went to the forum, because he felt that the subject of race in this country needs to be talked about everywhere, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes people feel.
“We need to understand the construct of race,” Rydberg said. “What it means historically in this country and why it was developed by the elite ruling class in this country in order to keep a select few people in control of the apparatuses of society.”
Rydberg said this discussion matters to him, because he has experienced the injustices people of color have endured in this country, particularly in California.
“As an indigenous person, the legacy of genocide and the holocaust of the American Indian, especially here in California, is an erased history,” Rydberg said. “[It] makes people who are really proud to be American extremely uncomfortable to talk about what’s transpired here in California, as far as the colonization of my continent.”
Rydberg was one of the many people who decided to speak out at the forum. He decided to share the realities of racism, because he felt that it would be helpful to hear from an indigenous person’s point of view.
“It was infuriating to see that the Arcata Police Department did not show up,” Rydberg said. “You’re in a position of authority. You need to be the most educated on this. You’re holding people’s lives in their hands every time you put [on] that belt buckle with your gun in it, every time you hop in your car with your shotgun [or] every time you have an AR-15 with you, with the legal authority to use that force.”
Rydberg has a message for people who didn’t attend the forum.
“You can’t stand in solidarity with somebody if you don’t know anything about their culture or their people,” Rydberg said. “Authority figures need to be [the] ones packing these kinds of events to learn about the people whose lives you hold in your hands.”