DEL PASO HEIGHTS – Aaron Cardoza, a mentor and member of the community based organization Brother 2 Brother, received a disturbing call from the nonprofit’s founder on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Brother 2 Brother’s Mervin Brookins informed Cardoza that there was racist graffiti sprayed along fences near Fran Barker Avenue and Altos Street in the neighborhood of Del Paso Heights.

Cardoza said he didn’t “respond with hate” after hearing the details provided by Brookins. But he wanted to help correct intolerance with something more special. He was so passionate about it that he interrupted his daughter’s homeschooling.

“I told Mervin, ‘… I’m there,’” Cordoza said of meeting with a group of community activists to discuss the issue. “I just told my daughter, ‘I can’t explain everything right now. Let’s go.’ So we left the house. She’s being homeschooled. So I had to pull her away.”

When the Cardozas arrived at the scene, they were were faced with hate messages such as “racism is good,” “White Power,” “Nigger Killer,” “Beaners Stink,” “White Revolution Is the Solution,” and the swastika symbol on every facade.

The next day, Tonya Mack and Neal Liggins — who was the first to discover the markings — had successfully brought together a group that turned a hateful situation into a message of love and unity.

“Our babies should never have to wake up to see this,” Ms. Mack posted on her Facebook page. “This is in a neighborhood in North Sacramento but not for long. We are painting over this … the next day if we have to.”

Liggins lives across the street from where the graffiti was found. He contacted Ms. Mack and had a long discussion about it. Distraught, the pair decided to take it in another direction.

A path that would “set the trap,” Liggins said, should the taggers decide they wanted to return.

“Obviously, I have a lot of friends that are involved in this type of activism and social issues. So I shared it with them, ‘Hey, this is what I saw walking out my door,’” Liggins said. “So, Tonya was like, ‘We’re going to do something.’”

The small coalition created a “Community Paint Party” to paint over the racist comments. It just so happened that it was also the first day of Black History Month. Ms. Mack said it was a way to celebrate culture, empower youth, and show that “love will win.”

“We wanted to start a conversation,” Liggins said. “Now this area is known for graffiti but nothing like this. It probably happened over night. But leave it up to me, I prefer to leave a trap, not to retaliate, but start a conversation. Right now, my solution is to cover it up and spread love messages. That’s the power we have to combat the hate that is out there.”

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer