Punishment is not to bring you down forever. Punishment is to make some correction. But in Santa Cruz, the police, they would nail you down forever. Paralyze you. If they take your car, where are you supposed to sleep? I looked at my watch. It was 1:00 am. It was cold.
A refugee of the Liberian Civil War, Arthur came to the U.S. 20 years ago. He had been a math and physics school teacher in Liberia. He first went to Chico, CA and was pursuing a computer science degree and working in that field. He came to Santa Cruz in 2003 and has been homeless off and on as it has been difficult to make enough money to stay housed. Arthur is working and saving toward getting U.S. citizenship, with plans to go back to Liberia to the 100 acres his parents left him. With the skills he’s gained with the Homeless Garden Project and the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), he plans to teach farming.
What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?
Even though I’m not African-American, it’s my movement, too. I’ve been here for a while. These are people trying to fight for their rights.
What's it like being Black in Santa Cruz?
It’s kind of hard. There are a lot of difficulties. A lot of people have preconceptions of Black people. They see the color of your skin but they don’t know anything about you. They don’t think good things. Like you’re lazy, or are a drug addict. In Chico I was once stopped for speeding in my new car. The officer gave me a ticket, but he spoke to me kindly and treated me like a human being. But I’ve had problems with the police in Santa Cruz, just for parking violations, and even one time when I was the victim of an assault, when I was jumped by two young White men. The attitude of police here toward Blacks is different. Sometimes they don’t even listen. Their mind is fixed.
What do you want viewers of this exhibit to come away thinking about?
There are a lot of good Black people. Honest (people.) There are Black people who want to do good in the community. To generalize that Black people are worthless, that Black people don’t want to work is wrong. Take it case by case, and evaluate it, instead of generalizing.