In the second of Mission Local Managing Editor Joe Eskenazi’s monthly talks at Manny’s, Eskenazi sits down with Honey Mahogany, chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and Geoffrea Morris, attorney and activist, to discuss what led to Banko Brown’s April 27 killing by a Walgreens security guard, and how San Francisco reacted.
The shooting of 24-year-old Brown brought the city’s issues to the surface: A Black trans man struggling to access food and shelter, a guard who had, two weeks earlier, been told to physically confront shoplifters following a “rampant street crime” narrative (and who, himself, struggled with homelessness and abuse) and a District Attorney under intense pressure to bring charges against the guard amid claims she is friendly to law enforcement.
This case, says Eskenazi, represents the “real SF dystopia.”
In brief: Two marginalized Black men were pitted against one another, with one killing the other, in a conflict sparked by $14.64 worth of goods from a billion-dollar corporation.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Young Women’s Freedom Center, where Brown was a housing advocate.
The conversation begins at 6:15 p.m. Check this page for updates.
“We listen, we respect, we give space. And then we make connections, and we make change.”
“Let us go out and treat every individual we encounter with the respect they deserve.”
Precious Green, the special events coordinator for Manny’s, says closing remarks. She looks at Mahogany and Morris.
“I just have to say — and Manny might get mad at me for this — I have to say: thank you.”
“I’ve noticed, living in the Bay Area, that people are too comfortable disrespecting Black women.”
“I’m pessimistic,” says Eskenazi. “Because there’s no capital.”
Mahogany says there are plans to help build more housing. And, she says, “we need to make sure those SROs are livable.”
Sixth questioner: “I always hear, ‘you should do this, you should do this.’ But I never hear an actual plan. What’s the plan?”
Morris says more newcomers to the city than SF natives are prioritized for housing.
They concentrate everyone in the Tenderloin, she says. “A lot of African Americans get more SROs than apartments.” Morris says to “ask Del Seymour” (Code Tenderloin) about inequities in housing for Black people.
“It’s probably worse for Black trans and LGBTQ people.”
Fifth questioner: Wants to know more about Banko Brown’s housing experience. In the last Point In Time count, the questioner says, the city recorded fewer than100 permanent housing slots for transitional age youth.
How did Banko not get access to housing of any sort?
“Police should not deal with mental-health issues,” says Mahogany. The city needs a fully funded, fully staffed mental health team.
Morris: Every district should have a community policing plan like D10. “Police has to work with community.”
Fourth questioner: “We let the police go out the back and not do a thing. It seems to me that with shoplifting and things being as they are, it’s enraging. But, that being said, it does not mean that someone should lose their life over a bag of candy.”
“What can we expect, from a policing standpoint, in your perspective?” He asks panelists.
Third questioner says: “I would like to know, as a Black man, whether a security guard is armed before I walk in the door.”
Referring to the headline, the man says: “It didn’t make me feel great. But it was accurate.”
He is interrupted by first questioner. They have a brief back and forth. Q&A continues.
Second questioner mentions Mission Local article on ALTO’s relationship with Walgreens and the DA.
“I didn’t like the headline,” says Mahogany. As Black people, she says, they are too used to being surveilled and being watched. She feels the article title was sensationalist.
Morris says, “No white media is going to tell our narrative.”
First questioner runs a local security agency focused on employing Black and Brown workers. He states: “I am a friend of the family of Banko Brown. The family and the Young Women’s Freedom Center reject monetization of Banko Brown’s name.”
He questions how the article “Real SF dystopia: Two Black men fighting to the death over Walgreens snacks” is at all helpful to the Black community.
“Where’s the outrage? Where are the people in the streets? Marching across the country?” asks Mahogany.
It’s unfortunate, says Mahogany, that more national attention hasn’t been on Banko’s killing.
“I believe this is our George Floyd moment,” says Mahogany.
Mahogany says small business owners should expect to be safe. But that does not mean people should get shot. That does not mean vigilanteism.
“Like George Floyd. We don’t know if that was a counterfeit $20 he used. There wasn’t due process. Black people are always being denied due process. Quit being my judge and my jury,” says Morris.
Banko Brown “allegedly” shoplifted, says Morris. “I say alleged, because Banko didn’t get due process.” Agreement from the room.
Round of applause for Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Shamann Walton for moving fast addressing Banko Brown’s killing.
In the time people are waiting to get housing, says Mahogany, people turn to drugs, or get sick, and can die. It is a necessity to increase access to housing.
Big nonprofits get all the contracts, says Morris. “Grants need to be going out to more small nonprofits, like Young Women’s Freedom Center.”
Morris says it’s imperative the city funds smaller programs that help community with housing.
Mahogany: “Unfortunately, a lot of our LGBTQ centers are full.” She says trans navigation centers have limited beds, and there’s a need to establish culturally appropriate services.
Eskenazi asks Mahogany where Banko Brown could have gotten shelter when there were many said to refuse him services.
Banko was 24, and had spent time in foster care, says Morris. Foster youth are cut off of funding at 21 years old, she points out. “We need to extend AB12 to those who are 25.” Audience claps.
“I’m in the trenches,” says Morris back to the protestor. “With people who look like me, who live like me. You don’t get to come in and tell me what’s happening.”
Protestors start yelling at Manny’s. “People don’t need to be forced into jails!” says one. “This is a Zionist organization!” they say.
“When the mayor says compassion is killing people, I agree with that, but greed is killing people, too,” says Morris.
“We really need a comprehensive mental health system, and jail is not cutting it.”
“We have some seriously mentally ill people,” says Morris. She mentions $96 million turned down by the mayor when former DA Gascon proposed a “mental health jail.”
Sup. Shamann Walton worked with community leaders to build a Community Safety Plan, says Morris.
“I believe in community policing,” she says.
“For all the pilot programs introduced by the mayor’s office, by the city — how many of those are being turned into long-standing programs?” asks Mahogany.
“People are frustrated,” says Mahogany. “I’ve had friends and small business owners who have been physically attacked.” She knows people who walk around with weapons because they fear for their safety.
“San Francisco is a liberal city, in that it’s a city,” says Eskenazi. “People are entitled to saying vigilante-like, antisocial things.”
“How low does it go?”
Discussion turns to narrative around the “doom loop,” and long-standing stores downtown San Francisco shutting down.
Eskenazi asks: At what point did “law and order” become shooting someone over snacks?
“[Elected officials] can’t show weakness — because they’re afraid that they’ll be recalled,” says Mahogany on the DA’s decision not to charge Anthony.
“I feel like AG Rob Bonta taking this case is just them holding off steam,” says Morris, who was surprised by the DA’s decision not to charge the Walgreens security guard.
The whole Banko Brown case has always been pro-Walgreens, she says.
“Jenkins is one of the Black faces who has been perpetuating harm.”
“I’m gonna get controversial,” says Morris. “We have some Black puppets.”
Racist policies, says Morris, have been largely upheld by “Black puppets.”
Eskenazi asks: SF is notoriously inhospitable to Black people. Yet so many of our highest elected officials are Black. What’s happening here?
“SF is known as an LGBTQ Mecca,” says Mahogany.
“Yet, I would argue that San Francisco is not a safe place for queer and trans people.”
As Larkin Street Youth Services director, says Mahogany, “I saw so many queer and trans people who were unhoused; 40% of our youth who are homeless identify as queer.”
“We are failing our queer people. Banko Brown ended up in this situation because he did not feel safe accessing services.”
“All this happens in our areas in the southern side, where all the children live in the city,” says Morris, who lives in Oceanview and is an advocate for the city’s southeast neighborhoods. “Many people are unaware of the actions they have in our areas. This case opens it up to a broader scenario. There are probably armed guards in other poor areas. We have to figure out a better way.”
“You should never be pulling a gun for property,” says Morris. “I know Mr. Anthony says he felt his life was in danger.” But, she points out, [Banko] was already leaving the store when he shot him.
Morris says It doesn’t feel fair that guards are armed to the extent they are when there are more hoops for civilians to jump through to obtain licenses.
Honey Mahogany: “I’m not gonna argue that San Francisco is perfect, that it doesn’t have its problems. I’ve experienced the craziness from our streets entering into our streets.”
Mahogany says when she worked for Sup. Haney, she fielded many complaints about “safe streets.”
But, she asks, what about holding corporations accountable? Walgreens allowed somebody to get killed, and is now getting away with it.
Morris says she feels Jenkins didn’t see Banko Brown as a model victim, so she just let it drop.
Geoffrea Morris: “We have to say what is more important in this city: Human life or property?”
“We need to push harder for corporations to be better stewards for people.”
“Over $200 million was granted for their opioid use. You can’t give people drugs and then get mad at them when they use.”
Mahogany: Justice looks like never again.
Eskenazi asks: What does justice for Banko Brown look like?