The panel included: Danika Zikas, promoter of the Black Lives Matter flower march in La Jolla on June 12; Rehema Ally-Lifa, LJVMA’s diversity consultant; UC San Diego student Paris Eisenbeiss; SDSU football player JR Justice; and Julia Espinoza, LJVMA’s social media manager.
LJVMA executive director Jodi Rudick introduced the panel.
“This is a special program with La Jolla listening to the conversation on race diversity and Black Lives Matter,” she said.
“This issue is all around us, there’s no way for us to sit down and do nothing about it,” said Ally-Lifa. “We need to have this conversation.”
“I grew up in a town, Paradise, in California, that is 92% white,” said Eisenbeiss noting she felt excluded because she was Black. “I decided to try and get as far away as possible. I wanted to be in a community where I felt safe and valued. My white friends would say this is La Jolla. It’s as safe as it gets. But while it may be safe for you, I don’t have that privilege.”
J.R. Justice, the son of retired Major League Baseball outfielder David Justice, pointed out our society isn’t color blind.
“The lighter your skin, the better you’re treated as a Black person in America,” he said adding his father always taught him to ‘be the nicest Black person they ever met,’ if I was ever confronted by a police officer. Black people get searched or stopped just a little bit longer than some who are white.”
“I’m just trying to organize this (flower) march to give Black people a voice, and for us to stand by their side to help in any way we can,” said Zikas. “I want to try and push the ideology of peace.”
Espinoza, the girlfriend of Justice, has learned about racism first-hand through being associated with him.
“People always emphasize that I have a Black boyfriend,” she said. “I’ve had to live with that mentality. This entire movement is about determining what is right and what is wrong.”
Ally-Lifa noted progress is being made in race relations demonstrated by “how prevalent Black Lives Matter is and how police reform now is banning chokeholds, that should never have existed in the first place.”
“Change doesn’t happen overnight,” pointed out Eisenbeiss. “There are battles that still need to be fought – and won. We need to see that this change is for real.”
“It seems like every time we take a step forward, we take two steps back,” cautioned Zikas.
“I want people to open their eyes about prejudice and injustice,” said Justice. “It’s happening. It’s much deeper than people think.”
Panelists were asked by Rudick what merchants can do to help further the cause of Black Lives Matter.
“They need to talk about hiring a more diverse group of employees,” answered Ally-Lifa.
“They need to stand for diversity,” said Espinoza. “Maybe you could add things about African music, culture, and dance to your programs.”
“I’d like to thank these young people for coming together,” said Rudick.