There was no marching, no chanting, no confrontation with police at the Black and Brown Unity Cookout, held Saturday afternoon at The Park at River Walk in southwest Bakersfield.

But many goals of the attendees were similar to the goals of those who have been marching in the streets calling for police reform and social justice, especially for people of color. 

"This is just a matter of the community wanting to make a difference," said Jay Gerard, an organizer of the event who was working with other volunteers grilling chicken, ribs and hamburgers for an estimated 200 to 300 who attended.

"We wanted to bring in all races," Gerard said. But part of the focus, he added, was to get African Americans and Latinos thinking as allies in a struggle that particularly impacts minorities.

There's a long way to go in this struggle, he said. "This is ground zero."

Gerard is involved in music, so he asked some friends in the local music business to join him.

Local music promoter and DJ Patrick Spurlock, of Phantom Stranger Inc., jumped at the chance to help bring music to the event while supporting the kinds of changes many are crying out for.

"It's an opportunity to be part of a unified front," he said. "For the first time I feel like all our feet are on the same ground."

Most of the event felt like a relaxed cookout as children played beside the park's flowing stream and young adults knocked around volleyballs or sat in the shade to eat.

Bailey Pina had her camera with her and shot photos throughout the afternoon. But the message on her T-shirt seemed to speak for her. There's "no place" for homophobia, fascism, sexism, racism or hate, the message said.

Eventually the music stopped for a time as family members, friends and supporters of Robert Forbes prepared to address the crowd. 

Forbes died just days after being struck by the driver of a vehicle while Forbes was demonstrating June 3 with Black Lives Matter protesters on California Avenue. The driver of the vehicle stopped, but police have neither arrested him nor identified him.

Police say they are still investigating the incident, but two of Forbes' sisters and an attorney representing the family called for the driver's arrest Saturday.

"We want justice," said Espinosa Parker, one of Forbes' sisters.

Parker told the crowd her brother loved barbecue, and if he had been at the cookout Saturday, he would have wanted to grab a pair of tongs to help cook.

She described her brother as a good man, a good friend.

"He didn't deserve this," she said.

Amar Shergill, the family's Sacramento-based attorney, also demanded the driver who struck Forbes in the eastbound lanes of California Avenue be arrested.

Shergill acknowledged that the investigation by police is still ongoing, but he argued that individuals suspected of committing a crime are often arrested before the investigations are complete.

The death of Robert Forbes weighed heavily on the minds and hearts of many at Saturday's gathering. But the reason Forbes was out there demonstrating was due to a long history of injustice, said Patrick Jackson, president of the local chapter of the NAACP.

Forbes wasn't marching for himself, Jackson said, "but for the little kids coming up."

The next generation.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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(3) comments

Zeppo

So every time a black person is killed, people have to gather to "show unity?" I don't see how this makes any difference at all.... the only thing that can be done is arrest the killer and get justice through the court system.

Masked 2020

I have a ? .... "no chanting".........is "chanting" a white irritate?

RubySue

Maybe. I would rather talk.

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