Killed for being hungry: the murder of Banko Brown

NYPICHPDPICT000010494898.jpg, Killed for being hungry: the murder of Banko Brown, Featured Local News & Views News & Views
Banko Brown.

by Akil Carrillo, POOR Magazine Youth PovertySkola reporter

SF D.A. drops charges?

As I researched the story on Banko Brown, many narratives came up. Many perspectives and many opinions. Details of this incident are hard to solidify but from what I understand, Banko Brown was leaving Walgreens when the Walgreens security suspected them of stealing and ended up shooting and killing the 24 year old. Some people say that Banko stole a sandwich, others claim that it was bought. Regardless of the details, I know that, Hunger is a painful thing, it will leave you in a desperate state where one would do anything for a bite of food. Regardless if food was stolen or not, it’s not a justification to end someone’s life. 

“He was the type of person to give you his shirt off his back, That’s how we knew him,” exclaimed Julia Arroyo, co-executive director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC), speaking in front of the Walgreens were the murder happened. 

She adds: “When I met with Banko, he told me he was struggling with housing. He did everything he could; he showed up in lines at 7 a.m. only to be turned away.” She was bringing to light the struggle Banko was dealing with, the struggle of being a poor Black trans youth looking for housing in San Francisco. Like Julia said, Banko was actively looking for housing, showing up every morning at dawn to wait in the long lines shelters have, just to be rejected for a bed. 

Every day he struggled, looking for food, heat and safety. Even on top of all this, Banko was an aspiring community organizer, a member of YWFC who was loved and enjoyed by many people, and that love was clear when I went to the gathering at Walgreens. The block was full of people crying, yelling and standing up – all for Banko. 

This story is close to home for a couple reasons. I grew up in San Francisco and in almost every school I went to there was a Walgreens within a two-block radius. I would go all the time and many times with friends. I’m mixed race. My mom has European ancestry and my dad is Guatemalan with Mayan ancestry. I’m white passing, thanks to being born with light skin, and even with that privilege I have been followed by security in the 22nd and Mission Walgreens. The security didn’t even try to hide it; he followed; me in every aisle I went. In situations like this, I can’t help but feel invaded. I begin to wonder what makes him think a 13-year-old is a threat. 

“The majority of security guards, sadly, are poor people hired to police, harass and kill other poor people,” explains POOR Magazine founder Tiny Gray-Garcia, reflecting on the incident. “There is no space for poor people in San Francisco. There’s no space, access or housing being made by politricksters for trans youth of color, for Black and Brown communities and poor people. So now they are killing us,” she adds.  

“This whole situation could have been avoided if only Banko was provided with the resources he needed, if only the security was not armed. Sadly this is nothing new. These murders happen all the time and will keep happening as long as the City refuses to put any funding into grassroots, poor people-led solutions and movements and as long as we still hate on each other and fear each other, as long as we buy into the scarcity model in which they tell us there is no space for housing when in reality there are hundreds of abandoned buildings, homes and lots in just San Francisco.” 

Justice for Banko Brown.