Mitchell Kapor Foundation Celebrates College Bound African American Young Men

Press Release, Mitchell Kapor Foundation

OAKLAND, CA (Thursday, May 10, 2012) – African American young men from the San Francisco Bay Area who are graduating from high school and heading to college will take center stage June 3 at a unique graduation ceremony aimed at celebrating and amplifying their achievements.

The event is part of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation’s College Bound Brotherhood, a college readiness program that aims to expand the number of young black men in the San Francisco Bay Area who are prepared for college. Youth participating in the event will be eligible for a $100 stipend to defray the cost of college books.

“African American young men are assets that we can’t afford to lose and, when they earn college degrees, the economic and social benefits impact all of us,” said Cedric Brown, CEO of the Kapor Foundation. “All too often, these young men and their accomplishments are overlooked and dismissed. The Kapor Foundation is proud to celebrate young black men who are on their way toward creating change for themselves, their families and our communities.”

Across the nation and locally, African American young men are graduating from high school at alarmingly low rates, and even fewer are ready for a college education. In 2009, for every 100 graduating Bay Area seniors, only four were African American males, and only one African American male was eligible to attend a California State or University of California institution.
Since the launch of the College Bound Brotherhood in 2008, the Kapor Foundation has distributed more than $1 million in grants to organizations that support young black men through college readiness workshops, college tours, academic coaching, mentoring and much more. The Foundation will issue a call by May 15 for another round of $25,000 grants to community organizations working on college readiness for young black men. Information on how to apply will be available on mkf.org.

“Black males are underemployed, undereducated and undervalued,” said Monique August, executive director of the Choose College Educational Foundation, a Kapor Foundation grant partner. “By investing in these youth, we are not only uplifting the lives of the young males, but enhancing the livelihood of our entire society. The Graduation celebration combats stereotypes and statistics of black male achievement, and is a catalyst of hope and pride in our communities. ”

In addition to strategic grantmaking, the Foundation builds a college-bound culture for young black men through collegeboundbros.org, a public database of college-readiness programs; the Brotherhood Leadership Advisory Council; and the annual “Black & Proud to be College Bound” conference. The 2012 College Bound Brotherhood Graduation Celebration, taking place at 5 p.m. at the Kaiser Center, is supported in part by Mechanics Bank. Please visit Brotherhoodgradcelebration2012.eventbrite.com to RSVP.

About the Mitchell Kapor Foundation:
Founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Mitchell Kapor in 1997, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation supports organizations that provoke social change in communities of color en route to equality. Through strategic grantmaking, the Foundation currently supports efforts in three areas of work: Voting Integrity and Civic Engagement; the College Bound Brotherhood program; and Information Technology for Social Impact. The Foundation also provides assistance and advising to build the capacity of the organizations it serves. For more information, mkf.org.

From the Pen, to the Page, to the Heart: RAW Talent electrifies

News Feature, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

Poetry, in its fragile beauty and crackling roughness, was fully embodied last Sunday night courtesy of RAW Talent, as the poets performed their first spoken word play, “From the Pen to the Page: This is my Redemption” at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts. Within the last year, RAW Talent has leaped to the forefront of Richmond’s young arts scene.

In April, preliminary rounds from the YouthSpeaks competition was hosted in Richmond for the first time. That same month, the program’s director and coach, Molly Raynor was awarded the Jefferson Prize by CBS 5 for her teaching. The high point, of course, was the Nya McDowells’s win at Youth Speaks Grand Slam Championship and RAW Talent’s strong showing throughout the competition. Heads are definitely turning their direction.

 

However, while “From the Pen to the Page” more than confirmed the talent of the spoken word artists, the show undertook a sharp political angle by exploring the systematic oppression prisons conjure on communities and the individual. RAW Talent demonstrated that their poems are not simply literary works of metaphors and rhymes, but it contains a rhetoric and critique of racial stereotypes and institutional power.

The show opened with audio from an interview of Stanley Tookie Williams. The use of archival interviews from incarcerated black activists, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, in itself presented a history of mass incarceration affecting communities of color. By referring to Jim Crow laws, literacy tests and the dehumanization of prisoners, the audio provided a context to the night, and eerily echoed anti-immigration policies and disenfranchisement laws currently being developed in the South today.

The opening performances set the tone of the night and each approached the topic of incarceration and its effects differently. Notably, Brenda Quintanilla’s and Serafin Macias’ poems clearly stated that those outside of prison serve time too without seeing their loved ones.

However, a strong point in the first half occurred in the ensemble piece with Molly Raynor leading a group of RAW Talent artists. Her poem focused on an incident where two white poetry instructors were charged of instigating resistance among the prisoners. The instructors are kicked out, while the prisoners are punished. It was special to see instructors and students interact on stage, and witness how Raynor’s performance style and skill could push RAW Talent artists further. It was the first piece that incorporated physicality in the body, as the students matched Raynor’s deep grunts and body convulsions. That moment hinted towards a physical style to be further developed among RAW Talent.

Yet if the ensemble piece built its power on the interactive nature between Raynor and RAW Talent, Micah Brumfield’s follow-up solo performance electrified on its own. The poem was unique in that it explored the clarity beget by living in a prison cell. Brumfield has a subdued style. It’s a quiet intensity, matched by Brumfield’s striking gazes and pauses. Brumfied slows down his word, breaks and elongates them at certain syllables. His delivery is muscular and deep. It’s evident that Brumfield has clearly honed his craft.

The second half continued in strong performances, and introducing new members of RAW Talent. But one surprise performance, that was refreshing amid the intensity, was when the night’s youngest and smallest participants, the Making Waves Academy poets, got on stage. In their piece the group of 7, acted as prisoners who wished they had better lunch food. The act of remembering childhood foods and family memories fit the young performers. It was effective on stage, to see how prison could reduce adults to wanting to be children again, and live in familial comfort. The new class of performers kept the piece light, and sensible. Yet it was equally discomforting to see young bodies enact emotions that are common in prisons, the emotion of missing home.

At the end of the night, Dante Clark’s solo performance completely amazed the audience. In this piece, Clark, whose character had been referred to as “psycho” and “sicko” throughout the evening, is thrown into solitary confinement. Under strong red lighting, Clark is confined to a circle on the stage, yet his body expression is giant. In his piece, Clark gives a history of slavery and how prison is its descendent. Clark’s character evokes the names of Emmit Till, Nat Turner and Malcolm X, the ghosts of black men. In keeping with his “psycho” character, Clark embodies racial tropes such as the violent black man, but Clark knowingly critiques it by performing this character to the guards and audience. Clark becomes the madness to show how the degree of damage racism and the prison system has done on the American psyche. His words were chilling. To call Clark’s piece a performance is not correct, because his delivery didn’t have traces of rehearsal. To me it felt like watching an open wound bleed raw and witnessing a poetry that you know is derived of generations of experience. Clark’s piece felt like that; there was more than one body on that stage with Clark. His piece deserves to be watched and studied again in order to fully comprehend it, but his emotional impact hits the heart on the first try.

 

“From the Pen to the Page: This is My Redemption” left me inspired and appreciative of RAW Talent. The magic exhibited that night leaves nothing to mystery why RAW Talent earns and deserves all of its accomplishments. It may be sooner than later, when RAW Talent will have to do more than one show.

 

RICHMOND’S HOMETOWN CHAMPION OF VERSE

Q n A, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nyabingha McDowell, 15, began performing spoken word over a year ago with one of Richmond’s most exciting artist groups, RAW Talent. After two years of poetry slammin’, Nya was named the Bay Area Champion at the YouthSpeaks Grand Slam Championship in San Francisco on April 27. Nya will be a representative on the Bay Area Team in Brave New Voices, a competition that will draw explosive spoken word artists from all over the world to perform throughout the summer at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Richmond Pulse writer Edgardo Cervano-Soto spoke to Nya and RAW Talent teacher Molly Raynor about spoken word poetry, Nya’s exciting win and her plans for the future.

 

RP: Nya, congratulations on winning the Bay Area Youth Speaks Grand Slam Championship, and for representing Richmond talent on that stage so well. What was the reaction from family and friends?

Nya McDowell: My mom didn’t believe I won! She thought I was lying because there was nothing to show that I won. All my friends kept coming up to me and saying congratulations. One of them said to me, “Oh my gosh, I know a famous person now.” But I’m not even famous.

RP: Do you prefer not to boast about it?

NM: I want to boast about it to myself. I don’t want everybody and their momma to know. When they announced it at church on Sunday, I was so embarrassed. I had to explain to everyone what “slammin’” is.

Molly Raynor: A lot of people don’t realize what [Nya’s victory] means. Out of 180 kids in the Bay Area, she won first place.  The Bay Area is considered to be the most competitive (region for) slam in the country because there are poets from Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, all competing. I’ve also been explaining it to everyone.

RP:  Nya, in addition to yourself, Marje Kilpatrick and D’Niese Robinson of RAW Talent also made it to the second round of finals that evening. What do you think your win, and the strong showing from RAW Talent means for Richmond?

 

NM: It means a lot. I’m the first person to win from RAW Talent. I made history. I think I set the bar for some people here in RAW Talent to do better.

 

MR: Right, we are hoping that someday there will be so many poets in Richmond that they will have to give us our own team.

 

RP: What was the interaction between you three while waiting backstage?

 

NM: We were supporting each other. It wasn’t a competition between us because we wanted to make the team together.

 

RP: Nya, you performed two incredible pieces that received the highest scores of the evening. The first had to do with prostitution, and the second was a piece about the cycle of violence in Richmond that involved multiple characters. When you perform these pieces, what do you want the listener to feel?

 

NM: I want them to feel (like I’m talking about myself), because that shows how good I did my poem. I want them to think it’s really me — and everyone thought it was me! They thought I was a prostitute, even though I wasn’t.  I didn’t want to make that known, (although) Ms. Raynor thought I should have.

 

RP: It’s a beautiful but very painful piece to listen to. Why is it important for you to have people believe the story and identify you with it?

NM: After I performed that piece, someone told me that I had said something they couldn’t. People going through that don’t have anybody to tell their story, so I feel if I do it… maybe they can feel the courage to say it out loud and speak their mind and tell somebody. I just want stories to be told.

RP: Can you describe your writing process and preparation?

 NM: First, I get a prompt. I’m very difficult when it comes to writing poetry. If you don’t give me a prompt I want to write about, I will tell you. I need a good prompt, something really different. Second, I go into a quiet place, and I lay down and think about the prompt. Once I have done that, at school when I’m bored I begin to write, write, write, and I finish a poem.

RP: How excited are you for Brave New Voices?

 NM: I’m so excited, you can’t understand what I’m feeling. I can’t wait to meet new people from all around the world, see some new styles of writing, maybe some ideas. I can’t wait.

RP: Ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

NM: I see myself writing a play, a spoken word play. I was always interested in writing plays when I was younger, and now that I am in spoken word, I can actually do that. My mom wants me to write a book. I see myself as a leader in college. I will probably minor in poetry but I want to be a psychiatrist. I don’t know how those two mix.

RP: Again, congrats Nya on the win and good luck to you and the Bay Area team in Brave New Voices.  If only they’d given you any trophy or a medal for winning!

 NM: That’s what I was wondering! What’s up with that? Give me some roses, or something. I want roses.

 

On May 20, RAW Talent will be performing its first spoken word play titled, “From the Pen to the Page, This is My Redemption” at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Richmond, from 3pm-6pm. Tickets are on sale at brownpapertickets.com.

 

 

 

New Music Program Aims to Improve Literacy at Downer Elementary

News Report, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

First grade student Nohemi Pizana bowed at the end of the recital, her violet cardboard cello beside her. The audience applauded, but not only for her. Nohemi was joined by 57 of her classmates at Downer Elementary on April 27 for their first classical music recital – the showcase involved no playing, just a show and tell of instruments and a naming of the notes on each string — marking the beginning of a new musical arts program at Downer called Sound Minds.

“It’s her first time playing the cello and she’s excited about it,” said Raquel Santana, the Nohemi’s mother, as she applauded.

Sound Minds is a new musical arts and literacy improvement program developed and sponsored by the California Symphony. Downer Elementary is the first school in the Bay Area to be participating in Sound Minds, and this year’s first graders are the inaugural class. The model for Sound Minds is inspired by a Venezuelan musical program, El Sistema.

El Sistema was founded in 1975 with the intention to keep children away from gangs and drugs by enrolling them in music classes at an early age until adulthood. The program has reached over 310,00 students in Venezuela, and has produced a number of professional musicians.


The success and concept of El Sistema moved Walter Collins, the executive director of the California Symphony, to develop Sound Minds as a music program that could have a positive impact on student academics. The California Symphony had done some work in schools but, according to Collins, the programs were not addressing the most pressing needs of underserved bilingual communities, such as those in Richmond.

“Less than 48 percent of West Contra Costa Unified School District third-graders can read English at a third-grade level. Knowing the significance of literacy, we decided to address the situation in a completely new and comprehensive way,” said Collins.

The idea of Sound Minds is that after every school year, a new class of first-graders will enter, while succeeding classes will continue to be taught classical music until high school graduation. Sound Minds will test best strategies during their pilot run.

In Downer’s program, students receive afterschool musical instruction for 60 minutes, playing the violin, cello and

 doing rhythm exercises. Another 30 minutes is dedicated to reading, enunciation, vocabulary building and comprehension in the English language, an aspect that makes it distinct from El Sistema.

The Board of the California Symphony chose Downer based on its academic needs and poverty levels. 85 percent of Downer students are English language learners and 100 percent are on the free school lunch program. Prior to Sound Minds, the school had gone two years without a music program, with the exception of after school guitar classes.

Although Sound Minds wants to see improvement in the student’s ability to play music, the “holy grail”, as Collins says, is to see whether Sound Minds has the potential to impact reading levels. During the pilot session, coordinators will measure the progress by comparing test data, as well as speaking to parents and teachers. The intention is to bring as many students as possible up to the standard reading level by the time they reach the third grade.

Third grade, for many English Language Learner students, is a target year, said Sonia Wong, the literacy coach at Downer Elementary. It is during the third grade that bilingual students are fully transitioned into English-only classes. According to Wong, of the 87 third grade students at Downer, 64 percent are reading at and well below the English reading level.

Sound Mind’s approach towards English learners is to also provide them “cultural literacy,” through the teaching of American poems and stories.

“Cultural literacy includes certain stories that all American children are familiar with,” said Wong. She lists Chicken Little, Cinderella and Aesop’s Fables as examples of American texts that are referenced throughout education. “These are references that are in stories, yet our students don’t understand them because they have not been exposed to them,” she said.

Preparing the predominantly English language learner population at Downer through Sound Minds is a strategy to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, says Downer principal Marco Gonzales. He said the cultural gap is a challenge for immigrant families, who must navigate an unfamiliar American society to ensure opportunities for their children.

“I’m convinced part of the achievement gap is the experience gap. Our immigrant Latino families are intelligent and hardworking, but they can’t always transmit what they know in this environment, because they didn’t learn it here and that impacts their children,” said Gonzales. “If our kids don’t get out of the neighborhood, they won’t have experiences. As much as we can give them that, it will impact in decreasing the achievement gap. Music can be a gateway to mainstream culture.”

Gonzales sees the excitement of Sound Minds being contagious around the school. In a couple of weeks, Nohemi and the 57 musicians in training will trade in their cardboard instruments for real violins and cellos. And this time, music will echo from the strings.

Richmond Volunteers Honored

News Report, Todd Spencer

Committing to do community service without compensation may seem undesirable to some, but to others, donating time for a just cause can be rewarding. And in fact, volunteers are responsible for some of the most important work that takes place in any community, which is why City of Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin and city manager Bill Lindsey have recently been working to promote volunteerism across the city.

McLaughlin recently signed a “declaration of service,” making Richmond a member of the Cities of Service national coalition. Cities of Service is a coalition of municipal governments from across the country that are working together to accelerate the “service movement” and engage residents as volunteers to make a difference in their communities.

Richmond was also recently awarded a grant from the Bechtel Foundation to advance best practices and develop a coordinated strategy for implementing citywide volunteer services.

In April, the City of Richmond, in partnership with Richmond Community Foundation (RCF) and the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, honored exemplary volunteer service at a citywide Volunteer Recognition Ceremony at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. The ceremony was a prelude to the city celebrating National Volunteer Week. At the event, community organizations occupied booths where people lined up to ask questions and sign up for volunteer services.

“I hope people recognize the amazing work that unsung heroes [in Richmond] do, spending their individual time to help improve their community,” said April Suwalsky, director of community engagement at RCF, who attended the event.

Mayor McLaughlin gave an inspirational speech, in which she quoted the great freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, and learn as if you were to live forever,” she told the audience.

Two types of awards were given out at the event. The first were in recognition of “meritorious service.” Those awards were given to: Roxanne Alexander, Andromeda Brooks, Catholic Charities of the East Bay Family Literacy, Tom Chin, Michael B. Clark, Joann Ford, Sandi Genser-Maack, Virginia Harrison, Felix Hunziker, Teri Katz, John Kendrick, Melanie Myers, Irma Sanchez, Helida Solorio, and Brian Spiker.

The second category was for “distinguished volunteer service.” The winners in that category were:

Bradley Blake, from the group College is Real, whose members have been working under the radar, helping Richmond High School students become the first in their family to graduate high school and attend college.

Jan Schilling, from Weigh of Life, for her work in helping Richmond families attain a healthier lifestyle through health education and exercise classes.

Isela Gonzales, from Building Blocks for Kids, an organization that supports the development of healthy children and the self-sufficiency of all families living in the Iron Triangle neighborhood. Isela thanked the city for its support.

Goshi Kogure, from the Richmond Art Center, said that he recently came back from Japan where he was visiting his ill sister, and was shocked upon learning of his nomination after having worked at the art center for less than two years. Art, said Goshi, is good for the spirit.

Cameron J. Williams, who started a ceramic arts project in North Richmond, was also honored, but was not present to accept his award.

Bea Roberson received a Special Recognition Service Award for her dedication to attending Town-Hall meetings to increase community understanding of issues around the city. Roberson encouraged everyone to find something they enjoy doing that can help to improve this great city.

Congratulations to all the award winners. May your plaque be displayed with pride, knowing you’ve done something to help improve the City of Richmond.

Opinions Divided on Richmond Soda Tax

Commentary, Iraida Santillan

The possibility of a citywide soda tax is causing a debate among our residents. The tax is meant to address the human and economic factors that cause obesity – especially in children – and dental disease, both of which are prevalent in Richmond. The money made from the soda tax would be used to create city health programs that would, for example, promote healthier eating and exercise.

According to 2010 Fitnessgram [www.fitnessgram.net/] data, more than 50 percent of children in elementary schools in Richmond are obese or overweight. And according to a Contra Costa health services report for the Richmond City Council, 74 percent of all Richmond residents live within a quarter mile of a soda vendor. The same report shows that soda is also frequently sold in close proximity to schools. Not surprisingly then, 67 percent of children in Richmond between ages 12-18 surveyed in the report said they consume one or two soda beverages per day.

I asked my family, neighbors, and friends as well as my boxing coach what they thought about the soda tax and whether they planned to support it. Their answers were obscure and conveyed a lack of understanding about why soda is a health matter. When asked why they constantly drink soda, some said it relieves their thirst. However, the truth is that soda does the opposite. Its ingredients – like caffeine and sugar – actually cause dehydration. It can also cause tooth decay and reduce bone density, and the simple sugars soda contains are what can eventually cause diabetes and obesity as well.

When asked if they knew that they could get a free cup of water at McDonalds and other places, instead of paying a dollar or two for a cup of soda, their response was yes. But still, they admitted, they would rather get the soda. If they did get the cup of water and there was a self-serve soda fountain near by, they would probably sneak themselves some soda, too.

This love of soda raises an important question: Would a soda tax even have an impact on changing people’s minds about drinking soda?

Most of those I’ve spoken to have said that even though they do not think it would stop people from buying or drinking soda, the money from the soda tax is well needed in the community to create nutrition programs as well as fitness programs. However, others in the community don’t want a soda tax, saying it’s just one more tax that will hit poor people’s wallets the hardest. Councilmember Courtland Boozé has called this is an “elitist” tax and said that he would not agree to a tax that is basically calling people fat.

The benefits or disadvantages of the soda tax remain to be seen, and whether or not we’ll even have a chance to see the impact will depend on the decision of Richmond voters, who go to the polls on November 06.

Soda Tax Approved for Richmond Ballot

News Report, Spencer Whitney | Richmond Confidential

City council leaders In Richmond voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to put a special soda tax proposal on the November 6 ballot. The soda tax would add a one cent per ounce surcharge to soda and other sugary fruit drinks that contain less than ten percent juice.
Under this ordinance, grocery stores, markets, and other vendors that sell beverages would pay the business license fee and monitor ounces sold per year. If residents approve the measure, Richmond would be the first city in the country to tax soda in the fight against obesity.

“I would like us to use the tax revenue in programs that prevent childhood obesity, like healthy school gardens and nutrition classes and cooking classes in the schools,” said Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman, who lead the push for the tax and is also a doctor. “We’d also like to provide adequate sports fields and teams for our children as well as programs that fight against childhood obesity.”

Ritterman even brought in props to the meeting to support his point about the damage done to the body by high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar by bringing a water cooler container almost filled entirely with sugar to the front podium. He used the prop to make a point about how much sugar Americans consume annually, contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure and blocked passages in arteries.

With over 200 Richmond residents in attendance, the city council meeting was filled to capacity. Tensions flared as advocates and opponents of the soda tax alike brought signs and petitions with them and made their presence known with cheering and booing throughout the meeting. Nearly 60 speakers came up to address the council on their positions on the soda tax.
Some speakers were adamant about approving the tax like Dr. Lydia Tinajero-Deck, who works at Oakland Children’s Hospital. “I see more and more kids with Type-2 diabetes being admitted to the hospital,” said Tinajero-Deck. “I also see more 11-year-olds that weigh over 200 pounds, and we’ve had two deaths over the last few years that were linked to childhood obesity.”

Local business owners in the audience, however, expressed concern that the soda tax would make it difficult to monitor how many ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages are sold per year and how much tax should be paid to the city. The measure could generate between $2 million to $8 million in additional annual revenue, according to a city staff report.

“The increased costs of soft drinks would adversely affect employment in Richmond,” said Tim James, a representative of California Grocers Association. ”Research has shown that the additional tax on soft drinks will not lower consumption, and force residents to seek grocery stores and markets outside of Richmond.”

Council members Corky Booze and Nat Bates, opponents of the soda tax, argued that it will have little effect on consumption and will primarily target African American and Latino communities.

“It’s clear that African Americans are being used as a stepping stool to get this tax approved,” Booze said. “Are we going to start taxing Twinkies and cakes too because they aren’t good for us?”

Audible booing from opponents of the tax could be heard in the audience as Ritterman spoke about how the funds raised from the tax would go towards health awareness and sports programs.Reverend Kenneth Davis of North Richmond was eventually escorted from the meeting after having a heated shouting match with Mayor Gayle Mclaughlin over his continuous disruptions and angry remarks towards supporters of the tax, and after being warned to stop a staged coughing fit whenever Council Member Jovanka Beckles began to speak in favor of the soda tax.

“This tax is a poor folks’ tax and a racist ploy to steal money for the slush fund,” said Davis to the council. ”Nobody knows where all the money from the tax is really going to go towards.”

Since 2009, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and the American Beverage Association have spent more than $70 million on lobbying and issuing ads against the soda tax initiative. Coca-Cola even published a paper titled “Our Position on Obesity” that cited scientific reports contradicting claims that sodas are a primary cause of obesity.

So far, over thirty states are working on levying their own soda taxes on the soft drink industry. In Hawaii, lawmakers proposed a tax that would have added 17 cents to a single-serve bottle of soda. And In Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Blake wants to adopt a five-cent-per-container tax on soft drinks.

Members of the audience had mixed opinions about the soda tax issue; some believe the tax incentive not to drink sodas will be beneficial for the community, while others felt the tax unfairly targets minorities.

“It’s a complex issue,” said Melvin Willis, a local resident. ”Coke tastes good, but it’s not good for you and its also not food. This should be about whether or not an individual has a healthy relationship with food.”

“I think when people go into the stores and see that the price is higher for soda, it might make them think twice about getting it,” said Richmond resident Joel Shanks after the meeting. “Or they might just buy a cheaper brand of soda. At least with the bill though, people are being challenged to be more health conscious.”

Calle 23, el Epicentro del Crecimiento de la Población Latina en Richmond

Reportaje, Monica Quesada

 

Harlem Masters, un Afro-Americano que se mudó a Richmond en el 2005, trabaja en la muy transitada intersección de la calle 23 y la avenida Clinton, asistiendo a peatones a cruzar la calle. “A esta calle la llaman Pequeño Mexico,” dijo Master, al mismo tiempo que ayudaba a un par de niños Latinos a cruzar de manera segura.

Esta parte de Richmond no siempre fue conocida como Pequeño Mexico. De hecho, es un fenómeno relativamente reciente que resalta cuan rápido la fachada étnica y racial de la ciudad está cambiando.

Hoy en día, los Latinos son el grupo étnico más grande de Richmond, con un 39.5 por ciento del total de la población, seguido de los Caucásicos (31.4 por ciento) y Afro-Americanos (26.6 por ciento), según el censo del 2010. Sin embargo, tan solo doce años atrás, los números del censo contaban una historia diferente. En el 2000, los Afro-Americanos eran el grupo racial más grande de la ciudad, con 36.1 por ciento, seguido de Latinos (26.5 por ciento) y Caucásicos (21.4 por ciento).

La floreciente población Latina de Richmond ha crecido alrededor de los negocios de la Calle 23, y rara vez ha sido más visible que en años recientes durante la celebración del festival del Cinco de Mayo.

No es sorpresa que, a medida que el festival se acerca, la Asociación de Mercaderes de la Calle 23 está liderando la organización. La asociación fue fundada en el 2007 cuando 15 mercaderes Latinos se apoderaron del planeamiento del festival. Hoy en día hay mas de 300 negocios asociados, todos con un objetivo en mente: hacer del Cinco de Mayo una celebración de la cultura Latina, orientada hacia la familia.

Rafael Madrigal, presidente de la asociación, creció en Richmond y recuerda ser uno de los pocos Latinos en el vecindario. Pero ahora, el dice que “la Calle 23 is el centro Latino de Richmond, como Fruitvale is de Oakland y la Mission es de San Francisco.”

Rochelle Monk de la oficina de administración de la ciudad dice que la forma en que la asociación tomó control de la celebración es un “buen ejemplo” de como organizaciones comunitarias pueden adueñarse de un evento y hacer de él un éxito. Cortes presupuestarios en la ciudad, según Monk, han hecho que sea difícil financiar eventos como el Cinco de Mayo, y ella duda que la celebración existiría del todo si no existieran grupos comunitarios como la Asociación de Mercaderes.

Antes de que la asociación liderara el festival, dijo Monk, las celebraciones del Cinco de Mayo en Richmond eran estropeadas por el vandalismo. Fiesteros dañaban carros y fachadas de negocios, y muchos de esos que fueron arrestados ni siquiera eran de Richmond.

Rigoberto Mendoza, dueño de “Rigo’s Auto Sales” en la Calle 23 y uno de los fundadores de la asociación, recuerda como las celebraciones del Cinco de Mayo, ocho o nueve años atrás, siempre terminaban en confrontaciones entre los participantes del festival y la policía.

Las confrontaciones acabaron, según Mendoza, cuando la Asociación de Mercaderes de la Calle 23 se involucró. “Cuando los negociantes nos metimos en medio de la comunidad y la policía, la relación mejoró,” dijo Mendoza.

Sergio Rios, dueño de Bob’s Cleaners en la Calle 23, es también uno de los fundadores de la asociación. El dijo que los negociantes decidieron monitorear las calles unos días antes y después del cinco de mayo, pidiéndole a la gente que se comportaran y que mantuvieran el festival como un evento orientado a la familia.

Juzgando por los números, los esfuerzos de la asociación han logrado no sólo un Cinco de Mayo más seguro, sino también uno mucho más popular. En el 2007, el primer Cinco de Mayo oficialmente organizado por la asociación, cerca de 6,000 personas asistieron. En el 2011 ese número creció a 100,000 participantes.

“Nosotros organizamos la fiesta más grande del estado, y no cobramos (entrada),” dijo Madrigal.

Aunque la mayoría de los miembros de la asociación y de la calle 23 son negociantes Latinos, no son los únicos miembros. Según Madrigal, entre un 30 y un 35 por ciento de los miembros son negociantes Afro-Americanos, Asiáticos y Caucásicos.

Yvonne Boswell es Afro-Americana nacida y criada en Richmond, y es la directora del “Happy Brown Bear’s Preschool/Daycare” en la calle 23 y la avenida Gaynor, donde ha trabajado por 20 años. Boswell es miembro de la asociación y dice que siempre se ha sentido bienvenida, aunque no habla español.

Hermin Dowe, originaria de Jamaica, tiene una firma de abogacía en la Avenida San Pablo. Miembro de la asociación por los últimos cinco años, Dowe dijo que la asociación le a permitido conocer un grupo agradable de personas de la comunidad y construir una red de negocios.

Eloisa F. Martinez, conocida como Lilly, fue la primera en abrir un salón de belleza de habla hispana en la calle 23, hace más de 20 años. Dice ella que cuando vino a Richmond sólo habían unos pocos negocios de Latinos. Hoy en día, Martinez dijo que su negocio a mejorado debido al creciente número de Lations en la zona.

A pesar de que el comercio a mejorado, Martinez no oculta sus preocupaciones. “Lo que no nos gusta es que pasan muchas prostitutas y que hay unos traviesos que hacen graffiti,” dijo mientras miraba a las ventanas que instaló recientemente en la fachada de su negocio. Alguien rayó las letras “BLAH” en cada uno de los paneles de vidrio.

Norberto Ruiz, dueño de Discolandia y otro de los fundadores de la asociación, comparte las preocupaciones de Martinez. “Antes cerrábamos a las 9 p.m., pero ahora cerramos a las 8 p.m.,” dijo Ruiz. “La gente tiene miedo de salir a la calle en la noche por los peligros que trae la prostitución,” añadió.

Según Ruiz, el problema ha empeorado en los últimos dos años. El dijo que le gustaría ver a la policía atacar más activamente la prostitución y espera que la Asociación de Mercaderes de la Calle 23 también se involucre en resolver el problema.

Richmond Adopts Innovative General Plan to Promote Community Health and Sustainable Development

News From City Hall

The Richmond City Council adopted a new General Plan 2030 to guide the City’s sustainable growth and development. The General Plan provides a comprehensive framework for developing a healthy city and healthy neighborhoods. While General Plans are required by the State of California to contain seven elements, the City of Richmond’s General Plan contains 15 elements addressing land use, economic development, housing, transportation, climate change, public safety, arts and culture, and open space conservation strategies. Additionally, the City of Richmond is one of the first cities in the country to include a comprehensive element dedicated to community health and wellness.

The General Plan accommodates open space and increased access to public parks as well as growth in mixed-use, high-density infill development around the City’s intermodal transit center and along its key commercial and transit corridors – Priority Development Areas. The General Plan also articulates a vision for revitalizing Richmond’s Southern Gateway area anchored by the Richmond Field Station site, which is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s preferred site for their second campus.

The new General Plan’s community health and wellness policies are extraordinarily innovative and are being implemented with support from The California Endowment. “Richmond residents deserve recognition for adding a health component to their General Plan,” said Tony Iton, MD, JD, MPH senior vice president of
The California Endowment. “Such an effort can improve community safety and health, which will help build a stronger, more vibrant Richmond.”

“The City of Richmond is proud to have a General Plan that contains innovative policies to improve community health and wellness by increasing access to recreational activities, healthy food, medical services, public transportation, affordable housing, economic opportunities, safe neighborhoods, and improved environmental quality,” said Bill Lindsay, city manager.

Richmond is an important industrial, commercial, transportation, shipping, and government center. Richmond boasts 32 miles of shoreline, the most of any city in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For additional information, please visit:
www.cityofrichmondgeneralplan.org
www.ci.richmond.ca.us/lbnl
www.richmondhealth.org
www.richmondenvironment.org

Richmond Tales Fest Celebrates Families, Focuses on Literacy and Health

News Report, April Suwalsky

More than 1500 Richmond community members and dozens of local partner organizations came together on Sunday, April 29, in Richmond, California, for the third annual Richmond Tales Fest: An Afternoon of Family Literacy and Healthy Living. The event was held at the Richmond Civic Center—activities were stationed at the outdoor plaza, Richmond Memorial Auditorium, and Public Library–which held special open hours for the event. The major community collaboration focusing on family literacy and healthy living featured a wide range of educational and fun, family activities. Dignitaries, including Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Superintendent Bruce Harter, and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, also participated with remarks.

Now in its third year, the event was inspired by the local history and healthy living as documented in the beloved book, Richmond Tales: Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, by Summer Brenner. Students and families across Richmond and throughout the region have embraced Richmond Tales since its publication in 2009 (Time & Again Press.) “I really like this book,” said Brenda S., a WCCUSD sixth grader. “It’s the one I read the most! I think it’s important for kids because it’s a good story talking about Richmond, and if the kids come to know about it, then they will learn about Richmond, and learn more about what it means to be here.”

At the festival, attendees had the opportunity to “visit” several places inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds in Richmond Tales–such as an organic garden and the Ohlone Village—as well as map their “travels” through time and across these geographies. “The festival affirms that the book belongs to the youth, the families, the teachers, and the diverse communities of Richmond. It’s their book. I’m tremendously proud to have been its midwife,” stated Summer Brenner, author of Richmond Tales.

As part of the ongoing efforts in Richmond to foster family literacy, health and environmental sustainability, the Richmond Tales Fest was spearheaded by West County Reads, Richmond College Prep Schools, and the Screen Free Week Consortium, with presenting sponsorship of Kaiser Permanente. The festival highlighted healthy ways of living, resources, and community building so that families can thrive in Richmond. “This event is in line with our prevention focus and focus on total health,” said Glenda Monterroza, Community Benefits Specialist at Kaiser Permanente. “Through the themes of literacy and healthy living we aim to empower families to make healthy life choices.”

The Richmond Tales Fest also served as the kick-off of the Richmond community’s observance of Screen Free Week–a national celebration where families, schools, and communities turn off entertainment screen media for seven days–offering families fun and healthy alternatives to televisions and video games. “We hope to inspire families to ‘unplug,’” Monterroza said. “The Richmond Tales event will showcase a number of activities that families can do at home rather than watch TV, play video games or sit in front of a computer.”

There was a community spirit and energy in the air that lasted throughout the day. Event organizers expressed that they were thrilled to see a vision realized and the event continue to grow from year to year. Event co-coordinator, Tana Monteiro—a parent at RCP Schools and community liaison—stated that on several occasions she had tears of happiness because the event was “so beautiful.” Similarly, as planning committee members passed each other on the plaza, there were high fives, fist bumps and spontaneous group hugs in celebration of the positive tone of the day. “THIS is Richmond!” exclaimed Nicole Valentino, Community Advocate in the Office of the Mayor.

Free children’s books were distributed to all young readers. Performing arts entertainment ran throughout the day, and included: Vamos a Leer, Native American drumming, youth poetry, readings from Richmond Tales, Mien Legends, youth dancers and gospel choir from Richmond College Prep Schools, and more. Family activities included the Family Literacy Project, literacy games facilitated by volunteers from BuildOn, gardening displays, and literacy workshops/resources for adults, such as GED preparation and family financial literacy.

Event co-coordinator Kevin Hufferd reported initial results from the survey evaluations that were collected. Everyone surveyed (100%) said they would participate in the Fest again next year. Many new families were reached with this year’s festival: 78% were attending the Richmond Tales Festival for the first time. A clear majority (64%) said the festival had inspired them to increase how often they read each day. “It was amazing,” Hufferd stated. “We hit a home run,” he said.

This event was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and in collaboration with West County Reads, Richmond College Prep Schools, the City of Richmond, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, WCCUSD, Richmond Community Foundation, Vamos a Leer, and Screen Free Week.