by John Glidden | Feb. 1, 2021
VALLEJO – Tensions boiled over during a special Vallejo City Council meeting Monday night after Councilman Hakeem Brown confronted a commission applicant who posted a racial slur about him on social media last year.
Brown pressed Julie Stratton, who is white, to explain herself after she wrote in a Facebook post last May that both Brown and former Mayor Osby Davis displayed “the Old Uppity Kneegrow (sic) syndrome…” Brown and Davis are Black.
“Julie, so the question is can you tell us how you would address issues of social justice and equity in your position as a McCune commissioner, and especially considering [since] you called both myself and Mayor Davis “uppity negroes” which would amount to calling us ‘uppity niggers,” Brown asked Stratton. “So I’d love to know what are you going to do address these issues considering the fact that you’ve used racial slurs.”
Following Brown’s question, Councilwoman Cristina Arriola asked the council to “keep the tone nice,” while Stratton appeared to fumble with her words, stating she would like to increase outreach and improve inclusion of the underrepresented in the Vallejo community. She never addressed Brown’s question about her Facebook post.
After the McCune interviews, the tension increased as Councilwoman Katy Miessner apologized to Stratton and the other commission applicant, calling Brown’s questioning “inappropriate.”
“That is a matter we should address separately,” Mayor Robert McConnell added before Brown began addressing Miessner.
“Councilmember Miessner I would take a little umbrage at that because calling someone an uppity,” Brown said before McConnell began to call him out of order. The two men shouted to be heard before McConnell asked if Brown wanted to poll the council to determine if McConnell’s out-of-order ruling was proper.
The council backed McConnell with only Brown taking issue with the out-of-order that was directed at him. Both councilwomen Pippin Dew and Mina Diaz said they were split over the issue, stating they supported the out-of-order but said Brown’s question had validity.
Dew pointed out that Stratton resigned from the commission in May 2020, days after she posted the slur. Stratton is seeking re-appointment to the seven-person commission which oversees the McCune Collection of rare books.
Reached by phone Wednesday morning, McConnell said he didn’t anticipate any form of punishment against Brown.
McConnell said he hadn’t heard of the slur when Stratton posted her message last year.
“I looked it up in the urban dictionary and there seems to have different meanings,” he said. “I think the different meanings shows that there are fractures in our society.”
Brown took to social media after the meeting to register his displeasure with Miessner and McConnell.
“That moment when the racist who called myself and former Mayor Davis “Uppity Negroes” not only reapplies for the same commission she resigned from but when questioned about her thoughts on equity considering her past racial slur is given an apology from Councilmember Miesner & Mayor McConnell,” Brown wrote. “So now we can’t question racists?”
Miessner couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
“Uppity negro” is a racial slur used against a Black person to demean them for not showing the proper level of respect or deference to a White person.
Councilors will appoint applicants during the council’s Feb. 9 meeting.
This article was updated on Feb. 2, 2021 to include comments from Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell.