Council on American Islamic Relations

What We Are Learning

Black Equity Initiative of the Inland Empire

Members of the Black Equity Initiative protest racist statements from a top San Bernardino County district attorney.

The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor ignited a national reckoning with systemic racism and the ways it has fueled police violence and exacerbated health disparities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This reckoning is especially important in the Inland Empire, home to the third largest Black population in California, 15 jails and prisons, and a visible white nationalist presence that violently opposes Black lives. We are proud to highlight the critically-important work of our partner, the Black Equity Initiative of the Inland Empire (B.E.I.-I.E.), which strives to improve social conditions in the region through empowerment, education and policy change.

Historically, a steady migration out of Los Angeles and into the Inland Empire, coupled with deep-rooted, anti-Black racism, have produced soaring rates of high school dropout, unemployment, homelessness and incarceration among Black communities. The B.E.I.-I.E. has worked tirelessly for over a decade to improve these conditions.

Established in 2014, B.E.I.-I.E.’s origins actually date back to 2004, when community members and educational leaders successfully advocated for the establishment of one of the few policies in the region charged with supporting the academic needs of African American students throughout the San Bernardino Unified School District.

Since then, B.E.I.-I.E. has built deep relationships—both within its network and countywide—and today partners with 20 Black-led and-serving member organizations. B.E.I.-I.E. works on such issues as criminal justice reform, educational attainment, youth development and empowerment and health and well-being.

Under the B.E.I.-I.E. umbrella, its members have achieved several significant victories towards advancing racial equity in the Inland Empire. Recent “wins” include:

  • Organizing to decriminalize youth in schools by changing district policy on arrest, citation and suspension (which contributed to a countywide reduction in youth arrests/citations by nearly 90%);
  • Pushing San Bernardino County as the first in California to declare racism a public health crisis;
  • Calling for greater accountability in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, resulting in the creation of a Community Commission and increased public/D.A. engagement.

“These achievements are a testament to the growing strength of a Black power-building ecosystem in the region,” said Pastor Samuel Casey, Founder and Executive Director of Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement and co-convener/member of B.E.I.-I.E. “They also underscore the Inland Empire’s place as a center of innovation when it comes to racial equity.”

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