Wednesday night the Bakersfield City Council officially adopted map 5B (Unity map).
The map had been submitted by the Jakara movement in hopes of keeping the Punjabi and other communities together as opposed to other maps that would separate them. Map 5B was created from input from the community and drawn by Jesus Garcia.
Garcia emphasizes that every version of the map was created from the community’s voice and their needs.
“It really encompasses the future. At the same time, it’s the end of the old Bakersfield. It’s the end of the white supremacists, it’s the end of basically a Bakersfield that never existed for the majority of us people of color and so I’m very happy to be a small part, the drawer of this map,
Community members once again filled the chambers in support of this map being adopted. Member after member gave thanks for the map and expressed how happy they were to be staying together.
One member who spoke was a freshman in high school, Himmut Kaur Chatham, she expressed how important it was for her to stay connected to her community.
“Our community is one that feels and thinks. A human is also a combination of the two. What I mean to say is that we are one. We are a people that refuse to be separated; then, now, and for years to come,” said Kaur Chatham.
Kaur Chatham looked at the crowd and said she sees herself in them and hopes the map is adopted.
The sense of community and connectedness flowed through the speeches of everyone who spoke in favor of the map.
One person chose to speak in opposition to the map. Pastor Angelo Frazier felt that the map would put Bakersfield back into segregation. To him, the map will only cause more division among the community members and should not be chosen.
“The racialization of America, the KKK would be thrilled with this progressive tactic. Redistricting is resegregation under the threat of possible litigation,” said Frazier.
Traco Matthews spoke later in the evening to denounce this accusation of segregation.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. I think exhibit A is all of the 20 speakers you have seen tonight. Every racial group represented in our city, in our community, in the ward we are talking about, ward 7,” said Matthews. “Diversity is something that should be celebrated. As a nation, it is what has made us great. It is not segregation but truly a valuing of the diverse voices of all those diverse people in our community.
After the public speakers were done, the council members were given a chance to comment and Eric Arias motioned to adopt map 5B. The vote passed with Council members Ken Weir and Patty Gray voting no, Bruce Freeman absent, and the rest voting yes.
After the vote, the community members moved outside to celebrate a historic win. Leaders spoke to the crowd about how grateful they were for everyone showing up and the map being officially adopted.
“I’m feeling elated. I’m feeling ecstatic, I’m feeling just completely whole inside my soul is completely filled with love,” said Harveen Kaur from the Jakara movement. “Everybody afterward was coming up and hugging me saying oh my gosh congratulations but I have to tell them congratulations to you. This is a community win.”