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Zyed and Bouna: The Unheard 10-Year Cry Against Police Violence in France

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Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore (Courtesy Photo)

Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore (Courtesy Photo)

Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

“Ten years for nothing.” “Dead for nothing.” These statements were the most common hashtags used on social media Monday, May 18 in reaction to the French Court of Rennes’ decision to acquit two police officers who had been accused of causing the deaths of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore, two teenagers from the commune of Clichy-Sous-Bois in 2005.

The teens were electrocuted as they sought refuge in a power substation after being chased by the police. After the deaths, weeks of rioting occurred in Clichy Sous Bois and spread across the country, to protest police violence and the social and economic conditions in many suburbs. While much attention has been focused on police brutality in the United States in the past months, this case highlights the reality of the issue in France.

Clichy-Sous-Bois is a commune housing 30,000 inhabitants and is located in a suburb of Paris in the district of Seine-Saint-Denis. This commune is isolated because of a deficiency of public transportation to the capital and neighboring cities. According to national statistics, Clichy-sous-Bois has the most precarious population of the district, with an unemployment rate of approximately 23.5 percent, a prevalence of housing projects and more than 22 percent of its population reliant on the RSA, a French social benefits grant.

Benna, 17, and Traore, 15, grew up in this environment. During the court hearing, the family and neighbors remembered these boys as “kind” and “helpful.” The results of the official investigation, released on a French news website, revealed that in the late afternoon of Oct. 27, 2005, Benna and Traore finished a football game with friends and, along with a third teenager, Muhittin Altun, started walking home to break the Ramadan fast with their families.

On the way home, the boys stopped to rest for a few minutes at a construction site. A local resident, not knowing them, called the police and reported some “suspicious silhouettes.”

Although no infraction occurred, the police arrived a few minutes later and the boys ran when they heard the siren. The chase that ensued ended with the three boys hiding in a power substation. Benna and Traore were electrocuted. Altun survived the shock but was severely injured. When asked in a TV interview why the boys ran if they did nothing wrong, the older brother of Traore answered, “It’s the reflex of fear.”

The two police officers, Sebastien Gaillemin and Stephanie Klein, were prosecuted by the families of the two victims for “non-assistance to persons in danger,” claiming that they left the site knowing that the boys were in danger. But the defense claimed that the police officers were not aware of the boys’ location and thus were not responsible for their deaths. However, in a conversation recorded between the two officers on the day of the incident, one of the officers declared while leaving, “If they entered the site, I wouldn’t pay much for their skins.”

The French Court of Rennes decided in favor of the police officers and cleared them of any charges. For the family lawyer, Jean-Pierre Mignard, this decision reflects a “legal apartheid” because “the words of two white police officers have prevailed over all considerations.” After the verdict was announced, hundreds of people gathered in 10 cities and displayed placards that read, “No Justice. No Peace.”

Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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Community

Humanitarian Organization in Vallejo Supports Developing Countries with Access to Water and Education

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti.

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Water and Education International Logo, Photo courtesy of Organization’s website.

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti. 

Based out of Vallejo, this global humanitarian organization rallies together volunteers to provide food, medical aid, and spiritual knowledge to communities in need. These projects include water well and shower installment, wall repair, and education expansion, development and improvement for schools in communities of Haiti. 

For the past 12 years WEI has made 20 volunteer trips to communities in Haiti, completed two projects that include construction of a water cistern and a toilet, and provided over 425 scholarships for these communities.

To support their mission of combating poverty by providing education and water to underdeveloped communities, WEI partners with indigenous organizations and asks for the help of people like you and businesses alike.

Moreover, they have begun numerous projects that benefit the overall health and education of themselves as well. WEI was founded by Ricky Nutt and is now under the direction of  President and CEO Renee Box.

For more information on programs and services, ways to donate, or how to get involved, you can contact their direct line at (707) 649-4154, e-mail them at info@weihumanitarian.org, or visit their website. For frequent updates, you may also follow their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

All information directly sourced from https://weihumanitarian.org/

The Vallejo Post’s coverage of local news in Solano County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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