Culture, Education, Hairstyles and the Diocese of San Diego

Jan 17, 2020

A 16-year-old young man was suspended a week ago from Mater Dei High School because of his hairstyle.  While that suspension has been rescinded, it never should have been allowed to happen at all. Diocese spokesman Kevin Eckery said that “the matter has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction;” we are here to tell Mr Eckery that the matter most certainly has not been resolved to our satisfaction.

The Diocese of San Diego is a private institution and thus Mater Dei High School is allowed to make its own rules within certain limits.  Religious organizations are furthermore given latitude by our government on issues of faith and conscience. This latitude is not extend to illegal discrimination, nor is hairstyle a matter touched on by the Catholic faith.

Hairstyle may seem like a small matter at first glance to the lily-white and all-male leadership of the Diocese of San Diego.  What they may not recognize is the cultural importance of hairstyle. While Catholicism is mum on the issue, sects of Islam, Judaism and even Christanity regulate hairstyle.  Furthermore, African-Americans, sadly remaining suffering as we do from so much discrimination, use our hairstyles as a way to remain in touch with our long cultural heritage.

We therefore believe that the Mater Dei High School’s action consists of illegal discrimination based on race, and is not a protected exercise of their religion.  We might have expected the Diocese of San Diego, whose all-male leaders wear dresses, to have a little more flexibility and understanding toward long-standing cultural norms.  We also might have expected the Diocese of San Diego, given certain practices in their own culture that have come to light in recent years, to keep its distance from the heads and bodies of young men in its care.  

We demand the Diocese of San Diego to do better, and we stand ready to assist any efforts they make to train themselves and their employees in the African-American experience, explicit/implicit bias, and cultural sensitivity.  We are celebrating a century of standing sentry over the civil rights of San Diego residents, and we are well-equipped to help rectify this matter.

Francine Maxwell, First Vice President and Acting President
NAACP San Diego Branch

5th Annual Interfaith Prayer Vigil Was a Moving Experience

For those of you who were not able to attend the Prayer Vigil, we want to let you all know that the Prayer Vigil was a moving experience with more that 60 people of different faiths, ethnicities, ages and parts of the county in attendance. The presenters were filled win sincerity, thoughtfulness and passion in their presentations and prayers. There is a strong vibration for peace and harmony in every community, and our friends and allies are praying with us and for us that the reckless and painful loss of the lives of African Americans at the hands of police officers will come to an end, and that justice will be done for those we have already lost.

Thanks to Pastor Byrd for assistance with logistics, the use of his Church and his gracious words of welcome and benediction.  Thanks to Bishop Bowser for his support and his part in the ceremony. My special thanks goes out to all of the presenters, but especially to Tasha Williamson and Cedrina McDonald, who so bravely shared the pain of the loss of her cousin, Earl McNeil to the egregious and deadly neglect of the National City Police Department and its officers.

In 2016,  August 11th was designated by the NAACP to be an annual National Day of Mourning to commemorate all African Americans killed in police involved interactions.  The San Diego branch of the NAACP held its fifth annual Interfaith Prayer Vigil on August 16, 2019 at Christ United Presbyterian Church of San Diego in support of this resolution.  Clergy representing the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faith traditions and community organizers who shared personal stories of loss and reflection, moved the hearts and minds of the many participants from throughout San Diego County. 

Attendees listen to Cedrina McDonald
Thanks to our Presenters:
3rd Row: Clovis Honoré, President, NAACP San Diego Branch
2nd row, eft to right: Tasha Williamson, Cedrina McDonald (cousin of Earl McNeil), Jeffrey Karahameto (SDOP), Leah Blake (Community Activist) Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Imam Wali Fardan, Carla Stayboldt (Continuing the Conversation on Racism)
Bottom row, left to right: Rev. Patty Allen. Pastor Kori Pacyniak, Pastor Nathan Byrd, Pastor Buddy Hauser, Bishop Cornelius Bowser
NAACP members who organized the vigil, left to right:
Diane Langworthy, Petrina Branch, Khalada Salaam-Alaji, Linda Cochran-Johnson
Also pictured is a wall hanging containing the names of so many lives lost to Police violence.

Fifth Annual Interfaith Prayer Vigil

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer, until I prayed with my legs.”

–Frederick Douglass

In 2016, the NAACP adopted a resolution, proposed by the San Diego Branch, designating August 11th as a National Day of Mourning for African Americans killed in police interactions. Our first interfaith prayer vigil was celebrated on August 12, 2016.

Please join us as we gather for an evening of prayer to mourn all African Americans who have been killed by the police.  We will also pray for other matters of concern including civil rights, jobs, education, health care, and housing.

The Vigil will occur on August 16th, 2019, 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Christ United Presbyterian Church of San Diego
3025 Fir Street
San Diego, CA 92102

For more information, email or call 619-263-7823.

National Day of Mourning for African Americans Killed in Police Involved Interactions

WHEREAS, the NAACP affirms the constitutional right of all citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes that police officers are sworn to protect all of the citizens in the communities in which they serve; and

WHEREAS, police killed at least 336 Black people in the United States in 2015; and

WHEREAS, Black people in the United States are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, and

WHEREAS, 30% of Black victims killed by police in 2015 were unarmed compared to 19% of White victims; and

WHEREAS, in 97% of the killings of Blacks in police involved interactions in 2015, none of the officers involved were charged with a crime.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recognizes the 11th day of August each year as a National Day of Mourning for African Americans Killed in Police Involved Interactions.

Timeline of Events Regarding the Death of Mr Earl McNeil

We of the NAACP San Diego continue to demand all relevant information and video recordings to be released to the McNeil family.  We are glad to add our voices to those of Ms Tasha Williamson and other community members who are demanding transparency on the part of the National City Government.

With the gracious assistance of Ms Williamson, we offer the following timeline of events, so that you can better understand the evolving situation in National City.

Please note: at the end of this timeline, there are several events listed in which you may participate if you are as outraged about the treatment of Mr McNeil, his family and members of our community as are we.

Timeline of Events Involving Mr Earl McNeil

May 26th, 5:36am
Mr McNeil calls for assistance using the emergency phone outside the National City Police Department. Mr McNeil is detained and placed in a restraint device called “the wrap.” He is detained in the lower level parking garage of NCPD Station for an indeterminate length of time.

May 26th
San Diego County Jail refuses to accept Mr McNeil, citing unconsciousness.

May 26th
Mr McNeil is admitted to UCSD Medical Center Trauma Care Unit with massive brain and neurological damage, as well as facial abrasions and swelling.

May 26th
Mr McNeil’s family is contacted by NCPD and told Mr. McNeil had a heart attack while restrained in a hogtie position.

May 28th
Mr McNeil’s family goes to NCPD to ask questions and get police report. They are told Mr. McNeil was not under arrest and there are no reports to give them.  Detective states “Look, your cousin spit on my officers and they are upset and want to know if he has AIDS or Hep A.”

June 1st
Mr McNeil’s family posts to Facebook seeking assistance. Other users refer them to Tasha Williamson and Aeiramique Meeka.

June 3rd
Mr McNeil’s family holds joint press conference with Ms Williamson and Ms Meeka at the steps of the San Diego Hall of Justice.

June 4th
Mr McNeil’s family, after conferring with Mr McNeil’s physicians, decide to withdraw life support on June 7th.

June 5th
Mr McNeil’s family seeks legal counsel from Francisco Aldana and Mark Lane.

June 7th, 11:00am
Mr McNeil’s family, supported by Ms Williamson, Building Justice, CAST, Generation Justice, Justice 4SD33, SURJ, Women Occupy San Diego, Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego, CAIR and other community members hold a press conference across from the UCSD Medical Center, demanding an accurate account of Mr McNeil’s hours in custody, and release of all video recordings by the National City Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

June 7th, 4:30pm
NCPD makes first public statement regarding the fatal in-custody injuries of Mr McNeil.

June 7th, 5:30pm
UCSD Medical Center staff withdraw life support from Mr McNeil. Mr McNeil shows signs of distress, and is sedated to preclude the posssibility of suffering. Mr McNeil’s family and community members keep vigil over Mr McNeil.

June 11th
Mr McNeil dies.

June 13th
Community members and organizations supporting Mr McNeil’s family holds press conference in front of National City Police Department, again demanding an accurate account of Mr McNeil’s detention and release of all video that might shed light on his injuries.

June 15th
GoFundMe created for Mr McNeil’s funeral expenses.

June 18th, 10:00am
National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez meets with the family of Mr McNeil. Sources say the family was told:

  • No video footage may be released because there is an ongoing investigation
  • Autopsy results may not be released because there is an ongoing investigation
  • Despite there being an ongoing investigation, there was no misconduct on the part of National City Police Officers

Mr McNeil’s family walks out of the meeting due to disrespectful demeanor of Chief Manuel Rodriguez.

June 18th, 2:00pm
Ms Williamson, Dwayne Harvey and Marcus Boyd meet with National City Manager Leslie Deese and Mayor Ron Morrison at 2:00pm to discuss timeline of events and the meeting between Mr McNeil’s family and Police Chief Rodriguez.

June 19th, 5:00pm
Community members and organizations supporting Mr McNeil’s family meet with media to demand the resignation of NCPD Chief Manuel Rodriguez for his unprofessional conduct with Mr McNeil’s family and his inadequate answers to their questions.

June 19th, 6:00pm
Community members, many of them organized by Ms Tasha Williamson, visit the National City Council Meeting to ask for release of evidence surrounding the case. Ms Williamson is arrested for speaking over her time, and is briefly hospitalized for injuries sustained during her arrest. Mr Rafael Bautista is kicked repeatedly by National City Peace Officers while he was coming up the stairway they were going down with Ms Williamson.

June 21st
The NAACP San Diego Branch Executive Committee passes a motion to join in the demands for release of the evidence to the McNeil family, and to offer assistance to Ms Williamson in her defense.

June 27th, 11am
Mr McNeil’s funeral Christian Fellowship Church. Deputy District Attorney Handler was in attendance.

July 3rd
Community members visit the National City Council Meeting, to demand release of evidence surrounding the case. These include Ms Williamson, NAACP San Diego Branch President Dr André J. Branch, and other members of the NAACP. Assemblymember (and NAACP member) Shirley Weber attends and calls for greater transparency.

Mayor Ron Morrison asks the NCPD to remove Ms Williamson. Community members surround her, and the NCPD allows the community to walk her out.

July 3rd
What Happened to Earl McNeil? Facebook page created.

July 10th
Abolish ICE/Justice 4 Earl McNeil hunger strikers hold press conference and launch of hunger strike for July 10th – July 23rd.

July 17th
Community members visit the National City Council Meeting, again demanding release of the evidence. NAACP members Amie Zamudio, Steve Dorner, and Renita Payno speak. For the first time, two councilmembers break ranks and call for greater transparency by the city they represent. After the public comment period, the meeting is declared out of order and adjourned to the following afternoon.

July 18th
The National City Council Meeting resumes. Three people are arrested and two (Aeiremique Meeka and Mark Lane) are injured by the NCPD. Everyone is asked to leave the building. The crowd waits to ensure all community members emerge safely, including those arrested and injured. The National City Council declines to add an agenda item addressing Mr McNeil’s death to their agenda.

Local reporter Wendy Fry (NBC7 News) reports that “BLM will begin to stage riots in the streets of National City.” NBC7 apologizes for the false statement and deletes it from their website.

July 18th – July 20th
Community outcry regarding Ms Fry’s reporting continues. Ms Fry condemned for her unjustified alarmism, which further endangers black and brown people. Community members point out that the only assaults caught on camera were those perpetrated by National City Police Officers.

July 19th
National City Council resumes its meetings and public speakers speak out about Earl McNeil and the way people are being treated during arrest. Mark Lane goes over his time and is escorted out by NCPD.

July 23rd
Mr McNeil’s autopsy results are “unsealed” but still not made public. These results are claimed to indicate the presence of a controlled substance and that injuries were due to cardiac arrest.

July 24th
At the final National City Council meeting before the August recess, community members are greeted by Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear. At the meeting, six community members, including Tasha Williamson, Aeramique Meeka, and NAACP member Amie Zamudio stage a “die-in” to demand release of the evidence. They are all arrested. There is a marked difference in treatment; the white protesters are handled gently, and the black and brown ones are treated roughly and painfully.

July 25th
Community members are released from jail and welcomed by the community. Ms Williamson is again treated for injuries sustained during her arrest.

July 27th
In a meeting organized by Mark Lane, NBC7 News Executives meet with organizers for Justice 4 Earl McNeil. Executives apologize for Ms Fry’s reporting and pledge to improve relationships with and reporting on black and brown communities.

July 29th
Ms Williamson speaks at Raul Rivera March and Rally for Earl McNeil.

August 7th
Sheriff Bill Gore requests to meet with Mr McNeil’s family and their attorneys. The Sheriff’s Department indicates they wish to work with the family to avoid further outrage and respect their need for information.

Important Upcoming Events

August 10th, 7:00pm, First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4190 Front Street, San Diego
NAACP holds a Prayer Vigil.  Members of the clergy, laypersons, and all persons of good will are invited to mourn and pray with us over the in-custody deaths of African-Americans like Mr McNeil and all the other injustices that are visited upon our community.

August 16th, 6:00pm, 1243 National City Boulevard, National City
Public comment at CPRC (National City Police Review Board). Public attendance requested.

August 25th, 1-3pm
Town Hall for National City Residents to speak with officials from the National City Government and Police Department.

September 6th, 6:00pm, 1243 National City Boulevard, National City
National City Council Meeting. Strong public attendance requested.