Santa Cruz Peace Train’s Curtis Reliford Holds Peace Rally This Friday in Response to Racist Assault
Curtis Reliford, a man of purpose who has dedicated the past 16 years of his life to helping others, was the victim of an attack in Westside Santa Cruz on the afternoon of Sept. 30.
As a Santa Cruz resident for more than three decades, Reliford is a beloved and respected man, easily recognized on the streets by way of his iconic truck. Dubbed the ‘C-Train’ (short for Curtis), the vehicle decked out in American flags and hope-filled slogans is also known as the Santa Cruz Peace Train.
Born and raised on a plantation in Louisiana, Reliford came to Santa Cruz in search of his father. While he never found the man, he did find opportunity on the West Coast. He started a small landscaping business, got clean and sober, and came to consider the city his home. His life of activism was born when Hurricane Katrina devastated his home state.
“I got started in ’05… when Hurricane Katrina hit and this thought came to me, ‘be the change you want to see,’ and I started noticing all the poverty, the forgotten people, the have-nots…”
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According to Reliford, that tragic event opened his eyes to a true calling. From that point on, he poured his energy into helping others in desperate need of support. He made multiple trips across the states to New Orleans, rounding up provisions and providing aid directly to the homes of families one at a time. In 2005, the emerging philanthropist founded the Follow Your Heart Action Network, a nonprofit grassroots organization that aims to enlist volunteer help and donations from “2 percent of the American people who care.”
On one of those trips, Reliford encountered a Navajo family from a nearby Arizona reservation. After a visit to the reservation, he recognized how families living there struggled to gather the most basic necessities. He began dropping off supplies to reservations throughout the U.S., including the indigenous communities of Standing Rock and the Hopi Reservation in northeast Arizona.
“I’ve been going to the Hopi Reservation for the last 8 years, taking food, clothes, building materials, 8 tons of goods, $100,000 of merchandise, and giving it to the people. No, you don’t have to sign anything… I’m serving these people, I’m looking at their situation, and I’m looking at where I come from. I have a purpose here, because I was born and raised on a plantation and that reservation looks just like that and the people are getting treated the same way when they go in stores and…cash their check. It’s the same kind of treatment…I’m just a one-man show at the moment. There are people who come to my rescue and dire need, but mostly I’m putting every dime back into what I’m doing…”
His goal is to make it to all the reservations in the United States and help people get what they need.
According to Reliford during our interview, the assailant in the recent attack threw signs at his leg and attempted to provoke Reliford into a fight. Refusing to stoop to his attacker’s level, Reliford instead took pictures of the man entering a “mansion” across the street. As a Black man in Santa Cruz, Reliford says he has been targeted by racial slurs and confrontation far too often.
He reported the incident to Santa Cruz police and followed up with the District Attorney’s Office — he says neither have taken action. He also went to see a lawyer in an office decorated with posters supporting Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement, only to be given the runaround. He contacted the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Good Times and even KSBW Channel 8, but Reliford said the news outlets did nothing but placate him.
Curtis Reliford will hold a rally this Friday in response to the assault, as a peaceful way to shed light on issues of racism and classism within the city and county of Santa Cruz. The event in front of Cinema 9 on Pacific Avenue scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. October 30th will also be used to collect contributions for his next donation drop at the Hopi Reservation in northeast Arizona. For those who cannot attend the rally, donations can be made through his Gofundme campaign. Donations can also be made by visiting his donor page and making a contribution via Paypal, or sending donations to Curtis Reliford’s Venmo.
Despite what he considers racist treatment from the city’s institutions, Reliford is determined not to give up on his mission to spread peace, love, compassion, and provide everyone with a second chance when they need it most. However, Reliford intends to ask the people of Santa Cruz one very pointed question during his upcoming rally:
“Is it okay for a Black man to ride around promoting peace and love in your town, spreading joy? Is it okay for me to do that… because I’ll just move to the next town if you all don’t want me here.”
The city would certainly suffer a loss if Reliford were to leave.
He has received the American Red Cross Good Samaritan Award, NAACP’s Community Service Award and the Jefferson Award, a program established in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Senator Robert Taft, Jr. to honor individuals who perform great public service largely without recognition. The Jefferson Award was given to Reliford by KSBW, the same radio-station that he said dismissed his story about the attack.
Despite accomplishments and awards, he remains humbled by his mission to create tremendous positive impact. He brings gifts of peace and humanity wherever he goes, yet he is immersed in a culture where some people are unable to look past their deeply-rooted racism, even in the face of so much good.
But still, Curtis Reliford presses on, choosing kindness over hate.
During the interview for Broke-Ass Stuart, Reliford said:
“Nobody can help everybody, but we can all help somebody. Join me on a journey of kindness.”