Special Edition Newsletter -September 30, 2020


Release Date: September 30, 2020

    Supervisor's Message

    d2 letterhead
    Pray Their Names

    Dear District 2 Residents, 

    I want to dedicate this special issue of the newsletter to an important issue that took place right here in District 2.

    On September 2, a traveling art installation with a profound message made its way from the First Congregational Church of Sonoma United Church of Christ to our beloved Niles Discovery Church in Fremont. The art piece, "Pray Their Names", was conceived by Reverend Katie Morrison of the aforementioned church in Sonoma and consisted of a field of 160 wooden hearts, each inscribed with a hand-lettered name of a Black life that has been lost due to racially motivated or police violence. Among the names were Emmett Till, Martin Luther King Jr., George Floyd, and blank hearts were left to represent the many Black lives that were lost in a similar fashion whose stories were never told.

    In addition to the 160 wooden hearts was a centerpiece heart, bigger than the rest, painted boldly with the words "Black Lives Matter". 

    Less than a week after its installation at Niles Discovery Church, the "Black Lives Matter" heart was vandalized and repainted with the words "All Lives Matter". Although a painful sight to see, Pastor Jeff Spencer of Niles Discovery Church and Reverend Morrison decided to leave the altered sign up for a short while to emphasize the real need for art such as "Pray Their Names" and for reflection on the immense impact that systemic racism has played in the history of our nation. Shortly after, Pastor Spencer released a compelling response to the vandalism which can be found below.

    Black Lives Matter Heart

    With a global pandemic, shelter in place orders, economic hardship, and a lack of leadership nationally, it is no surprise that tensions are high. However, it was no less disheartening to see the denouncement of the lives of our fellow Black community members take place in our very own district. Each and every one of our residents deserve to feel safe, respected, and welcomed in our district. 

    Decommission Ceremony

    On Sunday, September 20, "Pray Their Names" was decommissioned from Niles Discovery Church to be received at its next location at Island United Church in Foster City. I joined Pastor Spencer and other community members in a small decommissioning ceremony where we said goodbye to the installation and announced together in prayer that "We Remember. We Bear Witness. We Pray Their Names." Before the hearts were taken down, we walked down the rows, touching each heart and saying each name, memorializing and lifting each of them one last time. 

    I would like to unequivocally say: Black Lives Matter. This experience has solidified my resolution to continue working hard to provide safety for the underserved and unity for our County. District 2 supports efforts of Niles Discovery Church and the message from Pastor Spencer below. May we find a way to work toward our common ground and shared values of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness to lift each other up.

    Be kind,

    Richard Valle

    Words from Pastor Jeff Spencer of Niles Discovery Church

    Defaced BLM

    The artists’ original concept for this installation included a large heart painted with the words, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Within a week of the installation, someone vandalized the art, spray painting out the word “Black” and spraying in the word “All.”

    This vandalism has called me to ask myself, “Why it is so important to me to say, “Black Lives Matter,” when I believe that all lives should matter?” The answer to my question is in the question itself, in the word, “should.” All lives should matter. And we live in a culture, in a nation where all lives don’t matter.

    If all lives really mattered in the USA, the life expectancy of a Black baby wouldn’t be three-and-a-half-years shorter than the life expectancy of a white baby. If all lives mattered in the USA, the poverty rate would be the same across racial groups. Instead, Hispanics are twice as likely to live in poverty as whites and Blacks and Native Americans are 2.5 times as likely to live in poverty as whites. If all lives mattered in the USA, the “New Jim Crow” would have ended and Blacks would not be incarcerated at a rate five times that of whites.

    We live in a culture and country where Black lives do not matter, or at least they don’t matter as much as white lives. And that way of viewing some people – as if they don’t matter – goes against the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so, until our culture and country change, those of us who are Christians must proclaim clearly and vocally that Black Lives Matter.

    The fact that someone in our community decided to vandalize this art installation in this way is proof that the installation is needed in our community.

    Working for a positive peace,

    Pastor Jeff Spencer