Exposing Racism and Discrimination in Marin County; Schools and Community

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Heart Blaster Incorporated is bringing to light the racism and discrimination happening in the community of Marin County. They plan to build the most tech-savvy, innovative social, arts, advocacy, education, and resources center for youth to gain support, learn, engage in the community, and share values that promote equity and equality.

Racism is in the culture here. It is normalized. Minorities are marginalized, and our Youth call for action. - Sophillia Tagaban CEO of Heart Blaster Inc.

September 2022 - protests sparked in Marin County. Heart Blaster was tagged in multiple posts on Instagram, and we were sent a flyer and body cam footage via DM that was aired on ABC 7 Bay Area News by a resident in the Canal Community. The flyer read #justiceformateo and the video footage was graphic and disturbing. The body cam footage showed Mateo being slammed to the ground and punched in the face by Officer Brandon Nail, with Officer Daisy Mazariegos standing nearby.

We learned from community members that Mateo, a local gardener from the Canal Community, was enjoying a beer behind a local restaurant. This is where Mateo and other residents gather after a long work day. Officer Mazariegos was the first to arrive, and then Nail joined her. Officer Daisy Mazariegos is a long-time resident of this community, and the people are saddened and offended by her lack of support for Mateo. Mateo speaks little English, and Daisy is a fluent Spanish speaker; however, she stopped communicating with Mateo in Spanish once Nail, a white male officer, arrived. Why would Officer Mazariegos not advocate for Mateo, knowing he was a Spanish speaker? Next, officer Nail asks Mateo for identification, which is in his front pocket. Mateo stands up slowly to pull his I.D out, and for absolutely no reason, Nail slams him to the ground.

We have seen in the body cam footage that Mateo was not a threat. He had identification and followed all of the instructions given to him leading up to that point. Mateo suffered a concussion and a broken nose at the hands of Officer Nail, who said in response to the paramedic that asked what happened, “ he had a bad day.” It does not stop there. Nail never read Mateo his rights and went on to take a photo of Mateo with his cell phone for clout.
Marin county is one of the wealthiest counties in California and the country. It is also home to many marginalized black and brown communities. Where people of color are subjected to racism and discrimination in every space.

We have learned much about how this community functions while organizing with community members for Mateo and since then. There are many divides here. Systemic, institutional, and cultural divides are not recognized. Nonprofit organizations are at odd ends with the community, and we have collected many stories of trauma, discrimination, and racism. We, too, have our own stories.

Right now, the community is on edge. The City Attorney dropped the wrongful charges against Mateo, and the criminal investigation against Officer Nail and Officer Mazariegos is ongoing. Although Nail clearly brutalized Mateo in the video, showing his abuse of power and Mateo’s severe injuries, the confidence in the police department and city officials to do the right thing and hold these officers accountable is slim. The community wants to believe that they will do the right thing. So many have agreed to stay quiet. But the city council meetings voice nothing but tears and people pleading for the city to do something. This time. People shared similar stories of injustice from all over the county.

We cannot rely on the same individuals, structures, and systems to create a safe and equal community, or they would have. We need change, and the only way forward is to acknowledge where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to be as a community.

This particular incident was over an open beer container. There was no citation, warning, etc. A beer. A small pleasure that many Americans enjoy after a long day of work. We are talking about communities like this one, where you are limited on a hot 90-degree late afternoon day in September, where there is no AC in a small apartment complex, no back yard, pool, or even a front yard. Understanding your community is important. Understanding the culture, being familiar with the people, and treating people equally and with dignity, regardless of class, ethnicity, or whatever. Treat people like human beings. If you are stuck on the open container, understand that there are public parent and family “mixers” happening all the time where people of privilege get to enjoy a nice beer on any given day without being brutalized in public.

It doesn’t end there…

Recently, we connected with the BSU Black Student Union students over a racial incident at the San Rafael High School. In addition, there was a school letter sent out by SRHS regarding sexual harassment on the school campus and conversations between parents about the rehire of a P.E teacher at Davidson Middle School who was under investigation for peeking at girls in the locker room.

These are all very concerning matters around the safety of our children and this community. Transparency and community involvement are key in confronting issues in the institutions that educate our kids. Although there is always a community letter sent out from the school addressing these issues, there is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy ACT factor. The community, parents, and students are always left with questions about what is happening moving forward and how things will change. Conversations are happening about education, accountability, and partnerships with experts to come in and build appropriate plans. While nothing has been done before we are fed up as a community.

Heart Blaster continues to support SR BSU school petition around the racial incident at SRHS gaining over one thousand signatures in 24 hours. This is a racial incident between a student, and school campus security guard of 7 years, Royce. While working with SR BSU to support Royce, so much has unfolded. We now understand that Royce has been subjected to racism, being called the N-word, by this same student, and also staff on other occasions, and nothing had been done. Now Royce’s job is on the line.

We connected Tay Radio Marin with the SR BSU students to talk about, the petition, Royce, and community efforts. Tay Radio Marin is doing exceptional work and amplifying voices, culture, family, and youth strength in the community. Community leaders from right here in Marin County.

What we have learned in the radio interview between Tay Radio and SR BSU is startling. Our BSU students and radio hosts share personal stories of racism and discrimination at San Rafael High School. The full interview is on Youtube.

Although our efforts are not something to celebrate, we are proud of the SR BSU students for bravely coming forward and standing up against injustices in our schools. It is emotionally exhausting for POC to have to fight against hate for simply being. What we would like is for you to stand up with us and protect our communities. “One act of racism is a threat to the entire community.” - S.G

We have had the pleasure of connecting with people around all of these different issues. Concerned students, parents, youth advocate leaders, and residents of this community who share a deep concern for change in the culture here in Marin County. A static culture that is known for segregation, gentrification, discrimination, racism, and visible inequities. Community members share a passion and need for innovation, resources, facilitation, education, organization, and good people who want to contribute to the community. Where we can learn together and about each other while elevating our creativity and empowering the next generation to be compassionate neighbors and strong leaders. We need new ideas, programs, and social spaces that uphold ethical values. We must understand the many layers of culture, redefine community, and seek justice … let's keep working on this!

This is Heart Blaster Incorporated. We plan to build the most tech-savvy, innovative social, arts, advocacy, education, and resources center in Marin County. A space for youth to gain support, get creative, engage in the community, learn, and share values that promote equity and equality. This is not your typical community center. This space will promote growth and development. We will provide resources and tools for students looking to go to college in arts, work-for-hire opportunities, etc. This is how we build trust and success in the community.

Right now, we are building out our foundation. Connecting with the community first to understand the needs is important. Interviewing and being mindful and intentional with our Board of Directors so that we can pave the way for success.

People reach out to us for help and support because they trust our brand. Trust does not come easy these days, and it is imperative. We hope the institutions above will understand the responsibility in their decisions that hold great value and trust in this community. We do.

Heart Blaster Inc.'s mission is a commitment to treat people equally. Dedicated to fostering support through arts, education, advocacy, and resources. For youth to gain the tools and confidence they deserve to create meaningful conscious lives for themselves and thrive in their communities.

Connect with Heart Blaster Inc. on Instagram heartblasterinc or on their website (heartblaster.org).

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