In Her Own Words
By Dr. Lamont A. Francies
January 6, 2021
In this exclusive interview newly elected Antioch city Councilwoman Tamisha Walker sat down with The East County North Star to speak about this recent event involving her two sons and the Antioch Police Department. Councilwoman Walker was candid and honest about her reaction and response to the situation. She wanted to reiterate her commitment to the city of Antioch, social justice, and to all those who have reached out to support her. In this interview she addresses her concerns, her critics, and her objectives moving forward as the city of Antioch’s second African American Councilwoman.
I am delighted to have a chance to sit down and speak with the 2020 Contra Costa Humanitarian of the Year recipient, Councilwoman Tamisha Walker. Councilwoman Walker, what brought you to the city of Antioch?
I came to Antioch as a new homeowner with my family. We spent many years in section 8 and low-income housing. We came to Antioch to own a home and have an opportunity to build something for our family.
Sounds great. Tell us what happened that day your sons had an interaction with the Antioch Police Department.
When you ask that question I get a little heavy because you know I participated in a rally last year (protesting police brutality). It was there I mentioned George Floyd crying out for his mother. To me that was a rallying call for mothers all over the world. This was the motivation for me to run for office to address this issue.
The day you are referring to I was doing laundry, preparing to go back to work and all I hear is my oldest son (23 years old) crying out my name, “Mama! Mama!”
He rides up on his bike and yells my name and my youngest son’s name. There something about his cry out to me that day that told me something was different. He was not with his younger brother and that terrified me and so the first thing I asked him was, “Where is my baby?” That’s when he let me know that the police tried to run him off the road. He told me that I needed to go check on my youngest son (13 years old) because he was in police custody. This disturbed me because my oldest son is not a minor, yet he felt the need to come to get me. Then I received a phone call from my youngest son’s phone and it was the police officer asking for me.
I heard a male officer yelling in the background and my youngest son yelling in the background. I heard the officer tell my son to “Shut up, we are going to take your a** to the juvenile hall if your mother doesn’t get there”. I hung up the phone and raced there and saw my small 13-year-old son with tight black handcuffs around his small wrists. My 13-year-old son has never had a negative interaction with law enforcement. He was on the ground with two large officers standing over him.
When I saw that sight I simply lost it... I lost it ..(emotional breathing)...
Take a moment... Talk about that day and what emotions were going through your head.
I was angry, I was hurt, I was scared, I questioned whether or not I should go live. But when I got in the house my younger son collapsed in his older brother’s arms and started crying. At that point, all sense of reason went out the window. My younger son played the tough role until he got home but after that, he broke down and I said, “This is not okay, it’s not okay.”
What kind of hate mail have you received since posting the video about your frustration with the Antioch Police Department?
Plenty… plenty of emails to my city council email calling me disgusting, ghetto, telling me to go back to Richmond. Saying I need to be censured, that I’m a disgrace, and I’m foul-mouthed. Then people on social media attacked me (protected by their anonymity). They were demeaning to me and my children. I was called a criminal and a thug. I was told to crawl back into my cave. Called a hoodrat. Many assumptions were made on how I raise my children.
How do you believe those kinds of names and stereotypes harm African Americans living in Antioch?
As a college-educated woman, I have worked hard to build a better life for my family. It does a lot to your spirit. It tells you that you shouldn't have a voice and that black rage is unacceptable. That you are not allowed to have an opinion. So many people run because of this type of reaction.
Historically the credibility of Blackness is nonexistent. Because of this they can publicly murder Philando Castile, Mike Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor then have them be labeled as criminals and have their character questioned even in death.
It has historically been in the fabric of this country, especially in communities that have been predominantly white that have histories of excluding people in dark bodies while institutionally blocking against diversity. It can be a little discouraging but I’m still here...
What kind of support have you received since making that video?
I prayed and I said, “Lord help me deal with this because you know who I am, you shaped me in my mother’s womb, you have ordered my steps, and I’m not perfect and I know you will help me get through this because a lot is going on right now.”
I have had many elders that I trust in the community reach out to me and encourage me. They told me, “You dared to say what the others want to say, and you have a platform that other black mothers don’t have.” They told me, “We support you and we have your back.”
At this time I have received plenty of support from local Black clergy (Black Church Pact) and they are committed to standing with me, in front of me, and on the side of me. They informed me that whatever my boys and I need that they will take care of us.
I have had local community members who voted for me tell me “We heard you, we feel all of that in our hearts, and we need you to care because you are meant to be a powerful advocate for so many people who don’t have voices”.
So the outpouring of support has outweighed the demeaning negativity, racist hate speech, and the ‘back the blue’ groups. However, it’s been quite a journey...
So what would you like to be the outcome of all of this?
One outcome that I would like is for people who have felt the same powerlessness I felt that day to know that I see them, and I’m here and I’m fighting for them. Also, people should know that we won't be defined by our worst moment and that change can come from this.
Local police need body cameras, they need dashboard cameras to prevent these situations. Also, independent investigations into incidents should not be done by former law enforcement because that presents a form of bias. In their investigations, they tend to look for a crime and not mistreatment or harm. Every civilian filing a complaint, black, indigenous, or person of color filing a complaint about police harassment and excessive force should have the right to an independent investigation into any trauma that they face.
We must look into the practices and policies of our police department. Just because you have a policy on the books doesn’t make it equitable or reasonable. We need to get involved, bridging the gap in conversations. This is so important and we can’t let them beat us to the table to make sure our voices are heard, especially if we have ever felt powerless like I did at that moment.
We must get involved in this government. Antioch is a diverse city. We are a majority-minority city. There is no way we should be under one hundred year policies that were meant to keep us from building wealth, prosperity, and having quality of life in this city. Our fight begins with confronting policing practices in the city of Antioch.
Thank you Councilwoman Walker for your honesty, thank you for your bravery, thank your courage to speak your mind in such perilous times.
Thank you for all you do at the North Star and I’m looking for more news to come from this outlet to inform our community.