Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on Tuesday proclaimed Sept. 29, 2020 “Be Like Bo" Day in honor of Botham Jean, who was murdered by a Dallas police officer in 2018.
But on what would have been Jean’s 29th birthday, his family – who is currently in Dallas -- said they were neither invited to the proclamation press conference nor directly notified it was happening.
“I don’t know what you want to call it but I see it as gross disrespect,” Botham's mother Allison Jean said. “I hate to see people use my son’s name, just for the publicity, just for the optics -- that disrespects his family.”
Jean’s sister, Alisa Charles-Findley, echoed her mother's thoughts.
“Like my mom said, I call it disrespect, Mayor Johnson has disrespected Botham’s family from day one,” Charles-Findley said
Mayor Eric Johnson’s office said pandemic-related safety measures limited the number of people who could be at the press conference, also telling NBC 5 the family was notified through their pastor, who was in attendance at the press conference.
But for the Jean family, not being involved or invited was another hurtful wrinkle in a story they are still grappling to understand.
“My son was never one involved in any confusion, my son was focused, he was clear with what he wanted in life, he respected people and in his death I expect people to give the same to him while he lived,” Allison Jean said.
Allison Jean, Botham’s father Bertram and his sister Alisa Charles-Findley are spending the week in Dallas to celebrate both his birthday and life, as well as the positive work done by the foundation named in his honor.
In recent months, a push to rename Lamar Street “Botham Jean Boulevard” has gathered momentum and art paying tribute to Jean has popped up.
“What was done to memorialize him really shows the type of person he was and I think it is quite appropriate for it to be on the street on which he lived and died,” Allison Jean said.
But the Jean family said it remained concerned little has been done to reform the Dallas Police Department and take accountability for the systemic issue they believe contributed to Botham Jean’s murder.
“I’m raising three black boys in America, I cannot just sit back and let it happen because I fear for my boys,” Charles-Findley said.
Returning to Dallas, the Jean family admitted, is a conflicting and painful experience but they said they remained committed to using their experience and voice to make a difference.
Not only was this a time to reflect on “Botham” the person, but his family also took this time to continue their fight for police reform and accountability.
Ahead of a pending change in leadership within the Dallas Police Department, Jean’s mother, Allison, holds onto her message of reforming the department from the inside out.
“I think the city of Dallas needs to go back to the words that I used immediately following the trial, that they need to clean up. Because we could see that there is a lot of trouble going on within the police department,” said Allison Jean.
His sister, Charles-Findley, said her family is disappointed in Chief Renee Hall’s communication with them in the two years since his death. She weighed in on Hall's resignation.
“She did perhaps what she thought was the best thing to do but she couldn’t handle it because it is a police department out of control,” said Findley. “She made promises that she couldn’t keep. She didn’t follow up, so from then I thought this was a department she couldn’t handle.”
They said both locally and nationally there’s simply not been enough action or reform. There have been more names and more hashtags since Botham Jean, and his family is in Dallas not only in his honor, but to push for change.
“You would think the police department would try to correct the wrong that took place,” said Jean.
Allison Jean says she expected to see more progress by now.
“We cannot say it has gotten better, it has not gotten better,” Allison Jean said. “It just gives me a sense of despair that it is dangerous living black in America.”