The Human Side of Stephon Clark

The death of Stephon Clark has been a national hot-button issue for the past month.

 

On March 18th 2018, two Sacramento police officers shot at Clark 20 times and killed him in his grandmother’s backyard.

 

Since then, protests have flooded Sacramento’s streets–stopping highway traffic and blocking access to the Golden One Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

 

On the night of the Kings vs Celtics game, both teams were seen openly showing solidarity with Clark’s family by wearing black t-shirts stating “Accountability, We Are One” on the front, referring to accountability for police officers and the district attorney, and “#Stephon Clarke” on the back.

 

The Rev. Al Sharpton flew in on March 29th to give the eulogy for Clark’s funeral at Bayside of South Sacramento Church in front of Clark’s family and loved ones–as well as camera crews and hundreds of thousands watching live.

 

“They have been killing black men all across the country,” Sharpton said, clutching Clark’s grieving brother, Stevante, to his chest. “It’s time to stop this madness.”

 

After nearly a month since his death, it seems as though everyone has an opinion on Stephon Clark’s death.

 

Some people assumed he was a thug and that he’d “deserved what he got”. Many sympathized with police, believing that the two armed officers, who’d never announced themselves as such, should be excused for their actions because of their fear. Others look to Clark as though he was a martyr, seeing his death as a way to push for reform social policies and police procedures.

 

But aside from that, Stephon Clark was a 22 year-old man with two young boys who will grow up without their father. The people who were closest to him are most affected by this tragedy and will never look at his picture and see him as a thug, or a martyr, or a statistic.

 

Patrick Durant, Vice Principal at Sacramento Charter High School, remembers Stephon from when he attended during his sophomore and junior years. Durant claimed he first heard of Clark because he was close to the daughter of a family friend and got to know him through conversations about college and sports. What Durant remembers most about Clark when he was alive was that he was a “very friendly kid with good manners and a great smile” and that he felt disturbed when he read text messages from community leaders sharing that Clark had been shot.

 

Clark’s former History teacher, Paul Schwinn, described Stephon as “bright” and “funny” when he was in his class.

 

“He got an A on every single test I gave him,” Schwinn said. “Every time he spoke in class he had the right answer and always explained history in a funny, accessible way. He was someone who made first period fun for me and his classmates.”

 

Overall, Durant knows that many of his students face challenging environments outside of school that staff simply can’t shield them from. “The more we can help to improve that environment, the less Stephon Clark stories we hopefully will have to endure,” Durant believes.