We are better than this? Are we? by Tracy Pepper

Tracy Pepper is founder and executive director of Color Me Human and a board member of Earth Justice Ministries. Her Other Voices piece, “We are better than this? Are we?”  was published in the Grass Valley Union on August 13, 2020. 

It is past time to address racial issues in this County. I have heard time and time again: “there are no racially-motivated incidents in Nevada County.”

Many of us know this to be a lie, and we’ve tried to tell you as much.

Imagine the hardest conversation you’ve ever had to begin, hoping for help, closure, understanding, or compassion. Now imagine being met with “I’ve never seen anything like you say,” or “racism is not an issue here.” The implication that we are oversensitive, overreacting, or even paranoid is both isolating and enraging. I am here now with witnesses, video evidence, and the support of my community to finally, hopefully, obliterate the doubts about the extent of racial discord in Nevada County.

It is heartbreaking and disturbing to view the violence of these men, who many recognize as friends, neighbors, and local business owners, against peaceful protesters, including elders, women, and children. Violence imposed upon these protesters, and the seemingly complicit, almost supportive behavior of local law enforcement is gross negligence of duty, and dangerous to every person in Nevada County.

Peaceful protesting is one of our Constitution’s cornerstones, a right which should not be taken lightly. While there is no expectation that everyone will support the protesters’ values and message, law-abiding protesters should be able to do so without fear of being assaulted with impunity. Law enforcement should be there to ensure everyone’s safety, not take sides one way or another. During Sunday’s protest, law enforcement failed to embrace its motto to “protect and serve” all community members.

In addition to a thorough investigation into Sunday evening’s event and holding those involved accountable, an apology from the Nevada City Police Department is warranted. However, words without action are all too common on this issue. So, I call upon City Council and Chief Ellis to formulate and share a clearly defined plan on how the department will handle future situations.

Additionally, I call on local law enforcement, Nevada City and Grass Valley councils, and Nevada County Board of Supervisors to form a Citizen’s Oversight Committee committed to enhance accountability and transparency in policing and build community trust through civilian oversight.

We are not yet better than this; this is us now.

We cannot overcome racism without a humble and dedicated inventory of both our personal bias and inequity built into the systems we serve. Based on statements from law enforcement, I will cautiously trust in the collective willingness to share this path and commit myself and Color Me Human to this effort. Now is the time!

Tracy L. Pepper, MPA, is executive director/founder of Color Me Human.

Attack by White Supremacists in Downtown Nevada City

Reflections by  Daryl Grigsby on the violence against peaceful protesters that took place at the August 9th racial justice march in downtown Nevada City.

I’m sitting here listening to Aretha Franklin sing Marvin Gaye’s lovely ‘Wholy Holy’ – along with the Southern California Community Choir; recorded 1972 at the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. If you get a chance listen to that whole album – ‘Amazing Grace’. Only thing better than the CD is the video by the same name. ‘Precious Memories’; ‘Climbing Higher Mountains’

Sunday night I had the privilege of basking in the spiritual vibe and atmosphere created by Melina, Delgado (ok man i dont want to mess up your 1st name!), and Michelle. Our Sunday night zoom meeting was a spiritual banquet of deep breathing, song, prayer, meditation, poetry, reflection and sharing. A true Beloved Community, envisioned by John Lewis and Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker – radiated off the screen.

Some left the call at 6 to attend the Sunday night peaceful march for justice in downtown Nevada City. I didn’t attend, as we had out of town guests arriving at the same time.

The next day – basking in a mellow vibe in my favorite downtown Grass Valley Bookstore – the Bookseller – my friend (yes they are friends because I’m there all the time!) said, ‘Im really upset about what happened last night in Nevada City.’ I said, ‘what you talking ‘bout?’ She said, ‘look at the video.’

Burly white men with American flags and Trump shirts blocking the street; pushing, punching and shoving peaceful marchers, screaming and foaming at  people to get out of ’their town’, free use of N——, F- u, F-this, F- that, F-ing this, F-ing that. My words dont do it justice.

A friend of mine who owns a shop downtown told me he’s been in marches for the last 40 years – and had never seen such hate and violence. All reports are the group came looking for a fight, ready to fight, and were all willing to commit acts of violence against a peaceful demonstration.

The images sickened me.

I immediately contrasted the faces filled with rage and the balled up fists and the American flags used as weapons – with the prayerful, spiritual, loving BIPOC meeting held just one hour earlier.

But – here are my thoughts. Racism is, and has always been, a Resilient Demon. Whenever you think it has diminished, it has only gone into hiding, adapting to new condition, contorting into a new manifestation, and ready to strike back in new and frightening ways. Every single movement toward justice and democracy and equality in America has been met with harsh repression and a counter movements of white supremacy.

A look at history and you see how black progress is ALWAYS met with white Repression. Reconstruction, where black legislators passed laws that aided poor whites more than any passed by the slave oligarchy; was overthrown with violence and massacres. Black Wall Street in Tulsa and black labor gains in East St Louis were met with murder, rape and mayhem. The progressive unifying actions of Black socialists in Harlem and Alabama were destroyed by frantic anti-communist impulses. McCarthy and the Cold War was just an excuse to destroy all black progressive movements of the 40s and 50s. Black soldiers who fought in the World Wars were met with lynch mobs to destroy any thought of equality they man have entertained after risking their lives for the country.

The great Paul Robeson, one of the most talented humans on the planet; who sought a just world for everyone, was destroyed by the white power structure – revoked passport, cancelled concerts, FBI spying. It goes on and on. Civil Rights was met with Nixon’s ’southern strategy’ – which basically turned the entire ’solid south’ from Democrat to Republican; and deliberate actions to play on the fears of white voters.

Black Power was met with the War on Drugs – which turned into the War on Black People and ballooned the US imprisoned population from 300,000 in 1980 to 2 million in 2000; 40% of those imprisoned being black Americans (who by the war are 15% of the population, and who use drugs the exact same rate as their white counterparts). In the 1990s, mass incarceration  imprisoned more black men in America than the total number of Chinese in Chinese prisons or the total Indians in India’s prisons.

The Black Panther Party was countered with Hoover’s COINTELPRO and police raids that killed people like Fred Hampton as they slept. Affirmative Action, a minimal effort to build a more just society, was overturned by cries of ‘unfairness’ and ‘colorblind.’ (my Chicago Pastor, Rev Clarence Hilliard, used to say, ‘white people talk about they dont see color, but somehow they never accidentally end up going to a black church or living in a black neighborhood or going to a black college.’

The ultimate recent example of white reactionary repression – was how this nation followed the hopeful election of Barak Obama with the hate filled visceral bullying divisive election of Donald Trump. We have gone from a President who sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at the funeral of black church goers – murdered by a confederate flag wearing racist – to a President who spews daily insults to people of color and does all he can to exploit white ignorance and fear to encourage violent backlash. It does not matter that Obama objectively helped white workers far more than Trump ever has – all that matters is you have a president who sanctions and glorifies white supremacy.

Given that history – it is no surprise we are seeing the kind of reaction we are seeing now. Frankly – I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner and more frequently. Our nation, our state, our county, holds a pent up reservoir of racial hatred – that is not just words – but is manifested by violence.

And here’s what sad. The men who violently punched, pushed, screamed and shoved – dont have political or institutional power. They dont own corporations, they dont run governments, they aren’t police chiefs, judges, or holders of economic or political clout. In a way – they are a diversion. As horrendous as their actions were – they aren’t the ones who need to change lending policies, medical policies, hiring practices, criminal justice systems, educational systems – to create a more just America.

We all need to keep our eyes on the goal. We can’t tolerate the bullying violent racists on Broad St; there should and must be a concerted effort to have a society were peaceful protests aren’t met with violence. but they aren’t the end of the struggle – at the same time we need to focus on those who make the laws, uphold the laws, make the loans, hire the people and set the policies.

And here’s one more thought I need to share – imagine if a group of black men blocked a rally; pushed and punched and shoved and screamed obscenities; and threw white women on the ground – would they have been escorted away with police escort?

John Lewis left us a marvelous legacy of  perseverance, courage, commitment for us to emulate. ‘When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state, it is an act, and each generation must to its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world at peace with itself.’

Love does overcome hate (though it dont seem like it sometimes huh?), Peace Justice and Nonviolence and Equality are possible (also seems elusive – but Lewis never gave up – nor should we.

Lets keep that spiritual strong courageous vibe that was so tangible and powerful at our sunday night BIPOC meeting.  What a contrast? who would have thought that the love emanating from our Sunday night meeting would be met with hate and violence? But the resilient demon and beast is among is – it has not gone away – and our struggle is long and difficult – and we do have the strength and the community to walk in the shoes of not only John Lewis, but Delores Huerta, Fannie Lou Hamer, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Angela Davis – and all those who struggled for a better and different world.








EJM Letter about Reopening the Mine

Mr. Matt Kelley, Senior Planner
Nevada County Planning Department
RE: Idaho-Maryland Mine Proposal

Dear Matt Kelley,

Earth Justice Ministries is a local interfaith nonprofit dedicated to the work of peace, justice, and the restoration of the community of life. Our work is primarily local, but we think globally and address today’s interrelated issues from a spiritual perspective. We have two primary questions that we would like you to address regarding the proposal to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine (IMM):

  • Would the cumulative impacts of reopening the IMM primarily help or harm the interconnected community of human and other-than-human life in our region and beyond?

From what we have read of Rise Gold’s plan, the answer is “harm.” If that is the case, we will stand strongly against the proposal. If Rise demonstrates that all potential harm will be mitigated and that the mine will have overall benefit to the community of life, and if the plan is approved, the second question is this:

  • Will the County require a sufficient bond to be paid in advance to guarantee the conditions under which the permit was granted into the future?

The list of categories of concerns in the NOP does not take into consideration that these concerns are all interrelated. Ancient wisdom and scientific evidence affirm that humans are part of the interdependent community of life. When people write about the quality of air, water, soil, and the health of plants and wildlife in our area, it should be understood that a degraded bioregion will impact humans along with other life forms. When people write of concerns about the tremendous increase in energy use resulting in a much greater regional carbon footprint, it should be understood that the mine will accelerate climate change, which disproportionately harms those who are most vulnerable and will create immense hardship for future generations. Many people and organizations in our community are working hard to preserve the gifts of creation in this place and to transition to a world of climate justice. When people write about the (not just potential but stated) impacts of noise from drilling and heavy machinery running night and day, damage to roads caused by trucks carrying tons of toxic tailing (even through town), the release of asbestos from the tons of rock being crushed every day, wells running dry because of the massive dewatering operations, it is important to look at all these problems as pointing to a project that will not help, but will harm individuals who live near the mine, our dear Nevada County community, and the interrelated community of life of which we are a part. Even the issue of aesthetics should be seen in this larger context of overall quality of life, as many people find spiritual comfort in the beauty of this place, even while it nurtures biodiversity.

The gold extracted from this mine will not stay here but will be exported to Canada. The impacts will be with us for generations, as we know from the lasting impacts of legacy mining. To us, this is a spiritual and moral issue. Temporary jobs and corporate profits should not supersede the well-being of individuals, communities, the larger world, or future generations.

Thank you for considering our questions and we look forward to your answer.

Board of Directors of Earth Justice Ministries

Guarionex Delgado

Tracy Pepper

Brian Fry

Ruby Chow

The Rev. Sharon Delgado




Reopening Idaho-Maryland Mine still a bad idea

by Jonathan Keene, president of Wolf Creek Community Alliance

Published in the Grass Valley Union, June 24, 2020

Once again, a junior mining company from Canada has arrived in town with an eye to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine. So far, Rise Gold Corp. has not made a good impression.

If you’re new to the area, or your memory fades on the subject, here’s a quick refresher:

Every 5 or 10 years, gold mine investors get excited about the idea of re-opening an abandoned mine. These investment companies are often from out of state. In particular, “junior” mining companies from Canada operate in California because they enjoy funding loopholes that encourage speculation. The last such company, Emgold, threw in the towel after it was unable to complete the permitting process in 2012.

Rise is the latest case, and has been behaving as these companies often do. So far, Rise has had difficulty complying with some of the most basic Nevada County land use regulations.

In 2017, at their site off East Bennett Road, they began by removing a healthy stand of trees without a Timber Harvest Plan. Cal Fire issued two citations for this infraction — one to the property owner and one to the logging company. Then they started construction of an equipment storage pad. However, South Fork Wolf Creek, a perennial tributary of Wolf Creek, runs close by, and Rise neglected to follow the simple minimum 100-foot riparian setback requirement for streams in Nevada County. This is not a complicated rule: one simply needs a measuring tape, some wooden stakes, and a hammer. Start at the “Ordinary High Water Mark” of the stream, measure 100 feet, and drive some stakes. To be safe, add 5 feet. Connect the dots and you have a line showing the non-disturbance zone: no construction, no equipment, no disturbance is allowed.

Nevertheless, Rise’s newly-graded pad was clearly located on the wrong side of the line by 10 feet or 20 feet, and they encroached even farther with heavy equipment, a large pile of logs, and stacks of brush and small trees. For these violations, the County required Rise to file a Management Plan, which told them to remove the logs and clean up the worst of the thrashed non-disturbance zone. When this was done, the company moved in their big exploratory drilling equipment. Apparently, still no one had pulled out a measuring tape; the equipment was set down on the wrong side of the line. This time the County insisted on a second, much more comprehensive Management Plan. Eventually, they installed the stakes correctly and relocated the equipment once more to protect South Fork Wolf Creek.

All of this took about a year, and then Rise fired up their heavy equipment. That’s when the neighbors really started to complain.

You probably know the area around the intersection of Brunswick, East Bennett, and Greenhorn roads. Since the last of the Grass Valley mines closed in the 1950s, this has become a quiet, highly desirable, rural-residential neighborhood. Most lots are 1 to 5 acres, with easy access to both downtown Grass Valley and Glenbrook. The homes are on private wells and septic tanks.

The exploratory equipment operated by Rise for 16 months was essentially a super-sized well-drilling rig. It could go a mile deep and was multi-directional, so it could “explore” under neighboring properties. There was no county or state oversight on damage it might do to local aquifers or water wells. And it operated 24/7. The neighbors, being subjected to continuous loud noise and bright lights, had to call the sheriff in the middle of the night and file complaints; eventually Rise constructed a 20-foot tall “sound barrier,” to almost no effect. One county supervisor visited a neighboring house and was astounded by the noise impacting a residential area.

Despite the problems outlined above in following simple rules, in November 2019, Rise submitted an application to Nevada County for a use permit and reclamation plan to reopen the Idaho-Maryland mine.

Rise Grass Valley is a brand-new company registered in California in 2017 as a subsidiary of Canadian-based Rise Gold Corp. Ben Mossman is CEO of Rise Gold, Rise Grass Valley and was CEO of failed Banks Island Gold Ltd., which reportedly accumulated fines and citations due to as many as 35 violations of Canadian Fisheries, Environmental Management, and Water Acts. The company went bankrupt.

Like the previous two attempts to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine, Rise will be spending millions of investors’ dollars to learn, once again, that it is still a bad idea.

Jonathan Keehn is president of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.

Jonathan Keehn: Reopening Idaho-Maryland Mine still a bad idea