Bayview Activist Optimistic About Solving Social Problems
By Keith Burbank
Community activist Sala-Haqueenyah Chandler wants to help address the challenges facing Bayview, and African-Americans in general. “I can go on and on about what we see,” Chandler said, about the social problems Bayview residents encounter. “Yet life is beautiful. I love life. I wake up every morning and ask myself whom I can help.” Chandler pointed to housing foreclosures and health care costs as key problems. “I am working on predatory lending right now,” she said.
Chandler has been a Bayview resident for more than a decade, and has lived in the Bay Area for 28 years. She moved to Northern California when she was 24-years old, traveling from Los Angeles in a Ford Pinto with a friend from Jamaica.
In addition to financial and health care issues, Chandler is concerned about wrongful arrests of African-American men. The activist recounted a recent story told to her by Yolanda Banks-Reed. After attending church services Banks-Reed and her husband were traveling home by car through Daly City with their 21-year old son, 13-year old daughter, and their son’s girlfriend. According to Chandler, the police stopped the vehicle because it was traveling at 40 miles per hour (mph) in a 35 mph speed zone. The police asked for identification from all of the vehicle’s occupants, even though only the husband was driving. After conducting a background check, the officer asked the couple’s son to step out of the car. The young man had spent two years in jail, followed by three years on probation. “But since moving home with his mother he was doing well,” Chandler said.
When the officer asked the young man for his name, he gave an alias. “The young man was scared,” Chandler said. A short time later, the man’s mother gave the officer her son’s real name. When he stepped out of the car, the officer searched him, tazed him, and took him into custody, according to Chandler. There was no reason for the police to ask for the young adults’ identification, Chandler asserted, since the officer had stopped the car for speeding.
Banks-Reed said the police threw her son up against the car and beat his head. “These police had no self-control or self-discipline,” said Banks-Reed, who is a friend of Chandler’s. According to Banks-Reed, the police told her they treated her son as they did because he was resisting arrest. “But he was not resisting arrest. I was there,” she said. The police later told Banks-Reed that they were holding her son pending charges she couldn’t confirm.
Banks-Reeds said that she’s been receiving threatening phone calls from a man who she believes may be working for the internal affairs department at the police station that arrested her son. “I have talked with a man in internal affairs. It sounded like him. When the man has called, I have told him he has the wrong number. But he says, ‘Shut up. I don’t have the wrong number. Don’t you file any more complaints at the police department.” The matter is under “active administrative investigation,” said Sergeant Michael Barton of the Daly City Police Department’s management control and audit division.
“The police do not have the decency to solve the murder cases of young African-American men,” Chandler said. “Ninety-five percent of the homicides of young African-American men go unsolved.” According to a national study by Scripps Howard News Service, murderers of black or Hispanic victims are identified 67 percent of the time, though that dips to 64 percent for African-American victims between the ages of 20 and 24. When the victim is a European-American of any age, a murder suspect is identified 78 percent of the time.
Chandler is also unhappy with the location of a new health clinic being built on Third and Evans streets, the Center for Youth Wellness. The project’s sponsor, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris – a pediatrician and medical director of the Evans Avenue Bayview Child Health Center, which is a satellite clinic of California Pacific Medical Center – asked the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to re-zone 3450 Third Street to enable a clinic to be opened at the location. But Chandler said the location is contaminated. “Why would you put a youth clinic in such a contaminated area?” Chandler asked. Burke Harris is on maternity leave, and unavailable for comment.
Chandler raised her two children – now a 17-year old boy and a 21-year old girl, who recently married – as a single-parent. She has one grandchild. “I’m a Hebrew woman. I am of a mother soul cell. There is no father and no son. No outside God. I acknowledge a femininity principle,” Chandler said. “I’m not mad. I’m not angry. But I’m not going to keep my mouth closed. I can’t be bought. Someone tried to murder me in 2007, in front of my home,” Chandler said. “I was coming home from a birthday party. The police did not investigate the attempted murder. State Attorney General Kamala Harris’ administration told me it would not take the case because I am a community activist,” Chandler said.
“If there is a train of abuse [by the government], then the people need to abolish it [the government],” Chandler said. “It is our duty to alter or abolish it,” she said. In this state, “we don’t have the freedom to pursue happiness. I’m not afraid of politicians.” According to Chandler, African-Americans suffer from a lack of culture and language. “A people without their culture or language is lost.”
“Unless the United States of America makes reparations to the African-Americans of the United States, the United States will not be able to stand. It’s now time for the African-Americans to receive theirs. The Native Americans got theirs,” Chandler said in reference to a Native American tribe that was granted land in Northern California that they’d occupied long ago. “Let my people go. If they don’t, “they are going to pay the people. San Francisco and the United States must do right,” she added.
“It’s important to have someone like her here,” said Nailah Watkins, who has known Chandler for 28 years. “She does help the community. She’s wonderful, very funky, very gregarious, and likes to go, go, go.”
“I have to be free to live life. I cannot be in mental or spiritual bondage. I want to be free so I am able to take the time to talk to people. So I can stop to talk to someone for 30 minutes. There is nothing greater in you, than the spirit in you,” Chandler said. “There is nothing I can’t do.”
“She was brought into the world to be a light,” said Banks-Reed. “She’s an angel to me. She doesn’t fight every battle, but she takes on the ones she can do something about.”
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