Sequette Clark has known more than a few dark days, but with sobriety, self-reflection and a sense of purpose, light has returned.
“I never expected joy again. I went so long without it that I just didn’t expect it, so now, to have it again, oh, my God, it just radiates from me,” Ms. Clark said.
“I didn’t know I deserved to be full of joy. Now I’m just running around, grinning from ear to ear, cracking jokes. I crack jokes now, just stuff that you take for granted in life,” she continued.
Ms. Clark is the CEO of the I Am SAC Foundation, Inc. It bears the initials of her 22-year-old son, Stephon Alonzo Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in Meadowview on March 18, 2018 after they mistook his cell phone for a gun. His death thrust Ms. Clark’s family into the global spotlight and sparked unprecedented protests.
Ms. Clark was still reeling from the loss of another son, Demarcus McKinney, who was killed in 2006 at the age of 16. She also lost a daughter in 1996, soon after giving birth.
“It was easy to go into that numbing state of mind, so I didn’t have to deal with the pain,” Ms. Clark shared.
Ms. Clark, who is known affectionately as “Mama Clark,” has spent the last three years taking on law enforcement and other officials,
seeking justice for her son Stephon. She had to get her mind right for the battle.
“As a mother with children who were buried both from community violence as well as police terrorism, I truly believe that I know what part society, what part underlying factors, played in both those scenarios and these are underlying factors that have to be addressed before we can ask the police and the rest of the world to be accountable and transparent,” she said.
“We have to first be accountable and transparent with ourselves, with our child rearing, with our communities, with our society, with our culture. That being said, there are a lot of underlying factors that led up to the death of my children. Holding myself accountable and being transparent with myself, I have to look at it and say, Stephon had a high school diploma, however he dropped out of college, he was with a baby mama, he was in a domestically violent relationship, she put him out, he ran to Grandma’s house, he was high then. With Demarcus, he was selling drugs, he was in a gang, he got killed because he was robbed during a drug deal. Those were underlying factors that I had to first acknowledge, then address and now I’m able to offer solutions.”
That’s where the I Am SAC Foundation comes in, she says.
“It offers the solutions for those underlying factors,” Ms. Clark said.
The foundation’s crowning glory, Stephon’s House, opens on March 18.
“You can be fresh out of jail, your baby mama could put you out, your mama could kick you out. No matter what time of day, you can go to Stephon’s House and you can regroup. You can go into one of the healing spaces; you can go into one of the rec rooms and just unwind, but then you can go see one of our life coaches, you can go make a plan for your life.”
A plan for her own life has resulted from turning pain into purpose.
“The strength comes in to kill the helplessness,” shared Ms. Clark, who admits to having attempted suicide after her son Stephon was killed.
“The only way I feel that I can right the wrong that was done is to fight for it,” she said. “That’s where the drive and determination in the mothers comes from; that I’m doing something about this wrong, I’m doing something about you stealing my child from me. That’s where the strength comes from.”
The fight for change prompted Trayvon’s Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, to seek a seat on a county commission in Florida. While Ms. Clark says she’s been approached about running for public office, she doesn’t see it in her future. Interaction with politicians in the wake of her son’s death, left a bad taste in her mouth.
“Right now, I want to fix us. Right now, I’m focused on community, versus city or state. I’m in the field with it. I’m not sitting up above in high places looking down on it. I’m in it. That’s where I do my greatest thing, ‘with the people,’ not ‘for the people,’” Ms. Clark said.
Every Monday, Ms. Clark hosts a podcast, Healing with Mama Clark, where she encourages other mothers who have lost children, whom she’s dubbed “ye-yos,” empowering them to cope with and channel their grief.
“We’re not standing back and being victims,” she said during a recent podcast. “We’re not just sitting back and feeling sorry for ourselves, we have become active and motivated.”
Prior to the presidential election, Ms. Clark started an E.R.A. of the Vote project and worked with Fortune School of Education to have a ballot drop-off box placed in Meadowview, to make it easier for area residents to vote. Street teams also helped homeless residents register to vote, offering rides to the polls. Ms. Clark is also proud of calling the County Sheriff’s Department to task concerning its COVID-19 response and because of it, donating thousands of face masks to help protect inmates at local jails. She’s also participated in rallies calling for accountability in the deaths of local men like Marshall Miles and Antonio Thomas and is helping the mother of 19-year-old Sarayah Jade Redmond, who was killed in a recent drive-by shooting, find answers.
Ms. Clark said her son Stevante, who started the I Am SAC Foundation, encouraged her to step into her purpose. “Stevante, he was like, ‘people need to hear your story and you got to come up out of this fog,’” she shared.
“It’s my turn to start looking out for them. That’s what it’s about. I’m being the mother that I was created to be, that they love and deserve. I go to bed at night proud of myself.”
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The Sacramento OBSERVER introduces a special series, “Sistahs on the Frontlines,” acknowledging and highlighting the work that Black women are doing as “essential workers” on the frontlines, furthering the causes of the community. READ MORE