Face Painting Brings Joy to Kids, Extra Income to Family

News Feature, Karina Guadalupe

Joselin Reyes, 20, arrived at the park ready to begin a two-hour volunteer shift of face painting, signaling the start of the summer-long “Funky Fridays” program at Elm Playlot, also known as Pogo Park, in the middle of the Iron Triangle.

A talented artist, Joselin says her interest in art and make-up goes back to when she was young.
“I started with my make-up,” she explains, describing how she would practice on her younger sister. “[Last year] my next door neighbor who sells shoes at the flea market saw my little sister and told me I should go to the flea market and do that.”

It was a much-needed opportunity for Joselin to supplement her family’s income, in a town where jobs for young people are especially hard to come by.

According to Cindy Sugrue, a consultant with the California Development Department, the current unemployment rate for 16-19 year-olds in Richmond is 49.8 percent. Director of the City of Richmond Summer Youth Employment, Jay Leonhardy, says the number could actually be higher, “especially in [Richmond’s] most challenged neighborhoods.”

Joselin’s family, like many others in Richmond, was already going to the flea market every weekend to sell handmade bracelets and rosaries. On Saturdays they went to the Concord Flea Market, and on Sundays to the one in Antioch. Joselin was offered a small space at the family’s stand, and it didn’t take long before she was doing face painting for customers.

She started off doing simple make-up work, but has since moved on to cartoon characters and full-face designs. “I really like to freestyle and do my own designs. The boys love zombies and superheroes, and the girls like butterflies and anything that looks cute.”

Her family was struggling financially before they decided to open their own small business at the flea market. “It was bad,” recalls Joselin. “We would have to borrow money from others. The only one working at the time was my mom and there’s five of us, plus dogs. With the face painting and selling bracelets at the flea market, money is not so tight anymore.”

A true artist, Joselin is happy whenever she gets the opportunity to paint a face. Back at Pogo Park, what was supposed to be a two-hour shift extends to three, without a break, as she happily continues painting kids faces. But of course, it’s even better when she gets paid.

“If we wanted to go out to eat (before we started selling at the flea market) we couldn’t, because money was not enough. But now we can eat out; we can go buy things we couldn’t buy back then,” she says.
In addition to her family’s stand at the flea markets in Concord and Antioch, Joselin has also been hired to paint faces at birthday parties and community events.

Anyone interested in her services can contact Joselin’s Face Painting at (510) 672-8328.

Question of the Month: Small Biz Community Weighs in on Soda Tax

Compiled by Monica Quesada

QUESTION: If the Soda Tax is approved by Richmond voters in November, do you think people will stop buying soda? And if passed, how do you think the tax would affect your business?

Sunny Lee, 53, owner of Tarabini’s Deli

“It’s going to make the drinks too expensive and people are not going to buy it, so I signed for ‘no.’ In my opinion, I will have to cover the tax.”

Ramon Franco, 33, owner of Salsa Taqueria

“People are going to keep buying as usual. If the law passes, I just up the price what I have to. This is like cigarettes — they up the price to death, but the one that smokes keeps on smoking. If somebody wants a coke, they will pay (for it).”

Ivan Tian, owner of Joy Cafe

“I think people will stop buying, because it turns too expensive. It won’t affect us a lot because we sell other drinks, like milkshakes and coffee.”

Joyce Wu, 30, employee at Joy Cafe

“I’m against people drinking too much soda. It will affect my business, but I am for it. I was a nurse before and I think health is more important. Otherwise, the government has to pay for the medical bills.”

Susana Ayala, 27, employee at Lee’s Donuts

“People are going to keep buying because they have that habit, even if the price goes up. They will complain for a little bit and then they will have to pay. Maybe the first few days it will affect the business, but once they see the price went up everywhere, they will get used to it and will start buying again.”

Kevin Lee, 30, employee at Lee’s Donuts

“We are against it, that is why we have a sign outside. It’s not good for the city, because [people] might go buy [sodas] outside of the city.”

Brenda Cornejo, 18, employee at Bart Mart

“I think people will keep on buying, although maybe the store will have a drop in sales, because there are people with low incomes.  But I think they will keep on buying, anyways.”

Madeline Alvarado, 18, employee at Bart Mart

“They will keep on buying, because these are drinks that they consume daily.  They will keep on seeing [soda] in the store, and they might not buy as often but they will keep on buying.”

Amar Nasser, 29, co-owner of Bart Mart

“I think they will stop buying sodas because they are more expensive, especially when they can go to San Pablo and buy it cheaper there. It will affect my business and a lot of businesses in Richmond. I think we have to stop it from happening. It’s gotten kind of expensive.  And we [business owners] are not [the ones] paying that tax — the customers are paying. [Bart Mart] sells mostly sodas and bottles and all that stuff, so it is going to affect me a lot.”

Ceasefire Brings Healing to the Streets

Video, Street Soldiers Radio (106KMEL)

North Richmond Night Walk July 13, 2012

Richmond Ceasefire/Lifelines to Healing is a movement to stop the killings without sending more people to jail.

Across the community- faith leaders, residents,neighborhood organizations and law enforcement- are uniting to build a culture of peace and healing in our community.

Summer Dance Party Celebrating Healthy Eating and Active Living

Press Release, Youth Enrichment Strategies

Summertime provides the opportunity to get outdoors and be active. However, Richmond’s city streets don’t always conjure up the image of physical activity the same way a tree-filled park or shoreline does. This summer, a diverse group of Iron Triangle residents has been bucking the trend by coming up with ways to get exercise and be healthy in their own neighborhood – and they’re fired up about the way it’s making them feel.

“I enjoy coming together with other people in the community sharing healthy meals and being active together,” stated Helida Solorio. Helida and the other members of her Health and Wellness Committee have been learning all about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise for the past several months thanks to workshops and presentations provided by members of the Healthy Eating, Active Living, or HEAL collaborative.

Demetria Saunders, of Youth Enrichment Strategies (YES), facilitates the group on behalf of HEAL.
“When I asked the committee what they would like to do this summer, they brainstormed several ideas about being active which didn’t require having to drive somewhere. Yoga, swimming at the Plunge, a walk to Richmond’s Miller/Know Regional Park, and a dance are some of the things they came up with” stated Demetria.

Committee members have been organizing the dance for the past month and a half and are excited to get the word out to other residents. “We wanted to have fun, play some tunes, and get our groove on,” long-time resident Doris Mason explained. “This is a way to bring our community out of their homes to build relationships and break a little sweat.”

The dance will be held on August 3rd from 5:00pm – 8:00pm at Lillie Mae Jones Garden located at 257 6th Street in Richmond. In addition to dancing, it will include fun activities for the entire family.

It is free and committee members are encouraging both parents and youth to attend. Healthy snacks and beverages will be sold for a modest fee.

If you are interested in joining the Iron Triangle resident Health and Wellness Committee, or have suggestions about how to promote health and wellness in your neighborhood, please contact YES and Demetria Saunders at 510-232-3032.

Coronado YMCA, MFI, Team Up for Resource Fair

News Feature, Taisa Grant

The Coronado YMCA was at the center of this city’s ongoing community-building efforts when it hosted a resource fair on June 30th to bring tangible and basic resources to community members.

Edward Hamilton, a Richmond resident who lives on the corner of Ohio Street, two blocks away from the YMCA, heard about the event from a co-worker. He said the “diaper-drive” and resource fair are just what the community needs. He believes events such as these create opportunities for the community to come together and talk, which can then prevent fighting and ultimately, end violence. It’s a reminder, said Hamilton, that “without each other we’re not going to make it.” It’s a lesson he said he hopes will be learned by his young son and unborn child — that the community itself can end violence.

Mended Families Incorporated (MFI) set a goal of giving out between 5,000 to10,000 diapers and informing the public of various resources available to them and their children.The event kicked off at 10am, and before the doors even opened there was a line of people patiently waiting.

City Council candidate Marilyn Langlois, a board member of MFI since its inception, observed the interactions among mothers, seeing their appreciation for receiving concrete assistance, information and resources.

Nadiri Jumoke, a substance abuse specialist, said she was there because that’s where mothers would be, and some may benefit from the services she offers.

Jamie White, the secretary of MFI, has a personal investment in the work that her organization does. Like so many, she has lost family to the streets of Richmond, and in her opinion providing basic needs — like diapers, formula, wipes and clothing — is crucial in preventing further loss of life. If one is without these goods, she said, their lives can be negatively impacted. White added that she is hoping the event and the efforts of the organization will create a chain reaction of people sharing resources and supporting each other.

Candy Anderson, from the organization Brighter Beginnings, said scheduling the diaper giveaway for the end of the month was a wonderful idea, because many families must decide between buying food or buying diapers.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin was present at the event to show her continued support to MFI. As an honorary board member, she said the organizational goals are in line with those of the City of Richmond: to promote and create a healthy Richmond where our families can prosper and rise above violence, poverty and injustice. The Mayor stressed the importance of community-building, which she defined as human beings relating to one another in a fair and equal way, remembering that we are more alike than different.

“Community” is the key word used in many conversations taking place in and around the Coronado YMCA. There appeared to be a nostalgic feeling of joy among residents on that warm sunny Saturday, and MFI was the main purpose for the gathering on that day. Now, however, there is a call for more. Who will answer the call? I humbly guarantee that MFI and Richmond’s Mayor will. How about you?

As Prisoners Come Home, Richmond Non-Profit Seeks to Keep Them There

News Report, Todd Spencer

Men and Women of Purpose (MWP), a community non-profit dedicated to reducing recidivism among former prisoners living in Richmond, hosted an open house at its new location on 23rd Street last May. The purpose of the open house was to “inform (people coming back from prison) that there are services here for them now. They don’t have to wait,” said Antwon Cloird, the organization’s founder.

With more and more prisoners due to come back to Richmond in the coming months as part of the state’s prison realignment plan – many inmates are being transferred from state prisons to local jails, to ease overcrowding and bring relief to the state budget – the WMP open house could not have come at a more critical time for many former inmates who are returning to their local communities with little more than the shirt on their back and the standard $200 issued to inmates released by the state.

Last October, Governor Jerry Brown pledged maximum state support to local officials for handling the influx of state prisoners, including funding to be used for supervising parolees and managing lower-level offenders, as well as providing mental health, substance abuse and child protective services. Some of that money is now being directed to local service providers such as MWP.

Local governments are also trying to do a better job of doing more with the resources they have. Local county jails are releasing lower level offenders that meet certain requirements through alternative release programs, using tracking devices to keep tabs on ex-offenders, and putting an emphasis on local rehabilitation housing programs in order to decrease the chance of an ex-offender going back to prison.

While some critics of early release say it will result in a spike in crime in the community, it’s still too early to determine if that is actually the case. And programs like MWP are doing what they can to make sure that spike in crime never materializes.

“Our goal is to give people a second chance at a first class life,” said Cloird. But, he added, there are obstacles to overcome. For example, Cloird said it is common for ex-offenders in the community to be misdiagnosed with mental health conditions, or be dealing with drug abuse issues; both of which can contribute to a person ending up back behind bars. That’s where MWP comes in, providing much needed counseling, education workshops, job preparation classes, and life skills training. MWP has partnered with other providers in the community such as Richmond Build and Building Trades, to help meet the growing need.

The MWP open house kicked off with a prayer, followed by a short but inspiring sermon given by George Turner. Music was provided by a live band, Raw Blues, and the people soaked up the tunes while enjoying a meal of barbecue, hot dogs and chips.

Many people came out to show support, including Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who spoke about how MWP are showing the right initiative and setting an example of how Richmond can transform itself. Kimberly Graves, the marketing manager for MWP, was the MC of the event and introduced all the speakers. Frank Williams, director of the Senior Expender program in San Francisco, came out to recite an inspirational poem he wrote to share with the crowd. City Council members Jeff Ritterman and Corky Booze as well as City Manager Bill Lindsay came out to show support.

People from different parts of the greater Bay Area, such as Tariq Curry, a 27 year-old Tracy resident, came out to show support for his mother who is involved with MWP. He said he believes MWP is a good program, one that can go a long way toward helping people that are suffering, especially kids who may need help, as long as the program uses its resources to help the community in the right way.

Cloird and Barbra Becnel, executive director of Neighborhood House, escorted individuals on a tour of the new facility — starting out with the first floor offices, and moving on to the HIV compound testing room, DUI handling room that was decorated with informative posters, and a tour of the kitchen and cafeteria. On the third floor, Cloird and Becnel presented a glimpse of the live-in program, with dormitories meant to help people transition from dire situations back into the real world. The temporary housing can accommodate up to 50 residents.

Precious Knighten, a 21 year-old Richmond resident, started her first day as an MWP intern at the open house event. Precious said she feels honored to work with MWP and be part of a positive movement in Richmond, surrounded by prominent upscale African Americans who are willing to promote community change.

“If people would be willing to open their ears to listen to what people with experience have to say, then a lot of guidance will be provided,” said Knighten.

In Richmond, A Love of Soccer But Nowhere to Play

News Report, Monica Quesada

RICHMOND, Calif. — Angel Leon has learned how to express his feelings through soccer. If he’s angry, for example, he’ll use that emotion in the game, “not to hurt, but to be more aggressive towards the ball, more energetic.”

But Angel, 13, a player for the Richmond Sol Cobras, doesn’t get angry often. In fact, he said anger is exactly the opposite of what he usually feels when he’s out on the soccer field, running around with his friends.

“It is a fast playing game,” said his teammate, Kanai Salvador-Anderson, also 13. “You forget about your troubles and let out all of your emotions.”

But there is one thing that both Angel and Kanai don’t like about soccer: They don’t get to practice it enough, and it’s not for a lack of desire. Limited by a finite number of available soccer fields in the city, the Cobras only meet for practice twice per week.

Richmond Sol was founded in 2003 and is one of only two officially organized soccer clubs that exist in the city. The second is called Richmond United Soccer Club, founded in 1995. Between the two clubs, around 800 Richmond children participate year-round in soccer clinics and competitions, outings and mentoring activities.

The people who make up the staffs of the two soccer clubs are all unpaid volunteers – they do what they do for the love of the game, and out of a sense of community service. And despite the number of youth currently being served, soccer club volunteers agree that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. They could do much more, they say, if it weren’t for one big problem: There are simply not enough places in Richmond to practice soccer.

According to the 2010 Richmond Parks Master Plan, 16 different locations in the city are regularly used to play soccer, but only two of them are “purpose-built soccer fields” – places intended to be used for the sport. Those are located at Country Club Vista Park and at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. The other 14 places where soccer players practice are either multi use fields or green areas in different parks around the city.

“Currently, overuse of the existing fields is resulting in their deterioration, in some cases to the point where they are virtually un-playable,” reads the plan.

The study, published last December, also says that the city has a deficit of 19 soccer fields, based on a desired standard ratio of one field per 3000 inhabitants. In a city where the Latino population, with a strong soccer tradition, is now 40 percent and growing, the lack of fields is more perceptible.

“Back in the 80’s, softball and baseball were the popular sports here,” said Diego Garcia, vice-chair of the Recreation & Parks Commission and president of Richmond Sol. “The late 90’s was when soccer started to become popular, when the World Cup came to the U.S. Now, it is not the most popular sport, but it is a fast growing sport.”

Garcia estimates that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 children and adults in Richmond that are playing soccer. In addition to the two major soccer clubs, which are affiliated with national and regional soccer leagues, there is an informal club called Richmond Eclipse, and various after school programs that boast soccer teams.

The two organized soccer clubs, along with every other sport club in the city, face another difficulty. The cost of renting one of the city-run fields or one of the fields that belong to the school district, like the ones at Richmond or Kennedy high schools, may cost as much as $500 a day.

“When you are a smaller group and you are starting out without ties to the city, it makes it hard,” said Gelberg Rodriguez, president of the Richmond United Soccer Club. “Sometimes, teams have to pay $50 to $75 to play for a couple of hours.”

The fee that each participant pays to be part of the club covers that cost, and also the cost of uniforms, trophies and other accessories. But the fee could soon go up to $150 a year.

Save the Clubs

Juan Reardon has a 10 year-old daughter that plays with the Richmond United Soccer Club. He said he got tired of watching his daughter “avoiding the holes in the ground” as she plays, so he decided to act.

“There are close to 3,000 children who do one type of organized sport in Richmond, but that is the minority of the children in Richmond,” said Reardon. “The others do not participate because there is not enough capacity to welcome them and to facilitate their participation. They need help with tuition, transportation, and the basic issue is there is no field capacity.”

Reardon, Garcia and Rodriguez joined forces with six representatives from other baseball, football and track clubs in Richmond, and are now the Richmond Safe Athletic Fields for Education (SAFE) Coalition. Together, with Richmond Progressive Alliance as a facilitator, they are asking the city for more, and stronger, support.

“We are fulfilling a shared obligation that we have as parents and community members,” Reardon remembered saying during a meeting with the City Council and school district representatives back in February 2011. “(But) we need free or lower cost access to the fields, for all the sports.”

Negotiations between the clubs and the City Manager have been ongoing since then, and even though it looked like they were close to an agreement, it has been hard to find a way to satisfy both parties.

“We say we want to use the fields for free,” Reardon said. “They say, ‘I understand that you need support, but we believe that if people don’t pay they don’t appreciate (the fields).’”

But Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay said appreciation is not the main reason for imposing a fee on the clubs, which are using the facilities exclusively — that means that during their practices and games, the rest of the public cannot use the field. Hence the fee.

The latest round of negotiations between the SAFE coalition and the City Manager’s office established that the clubs would pay 8 dollars per year, per player if the player is a Richmond resident, and 14 dollars per year per player if the player comes from outside Richmond.

Members of SAFE agreed to pay the fee, but asked that the money be saved by the city and then redirected to each club, to be used to finance their various club-related costs.

Lindsay, on the other hand, said the fees should be used to “lease field space from the School District, make improvements to city-owned facilities, and fund special projects and events for the collective benefit of participating SAFE members.”

No final resolution has yet been agreed to, but both parties are working to reach an understanding.

The debate may also be influenced by the outcome of city elections in November, when residents will decide whether or not sugary beverages like sodas should taxed by the city. If the proposal is approved, Richmond will have some extra money that could be earmarked to fight obesity. And it’s not a stretch to think that part of that money could be used to build sports fields.

Even if that money materializes, however, the task of building new city-funded sports fields in Richmond looks daunting.

“It is gonna take us maybe 10 years to close the gap on the lack of fields,” said Reardon. “But [the soda tax] will be a good steady income for the city to address this problem.”

More Than Soccer

For Angel and Kanai, being club members brings a lot more than just learning soccer. They also learn discipline, how to communicate with their teammates and how to be leaders, by making decisions as a team and putting the team’s interest before their own.

“I try to be an example for my brother,” said Angel, “so he doesn’t end up in places where he should not be.”

“Sports for me are a metaphor for life,” said Rodriguez. “If you work hard in soccer, you can be successful. If you wanna do well in life you have to work hard. I think a lot of coaches use that metaphor.”

Rodriguez is an engineer who graduated from UC Berkeley, and he said that soccer and the Richmond United Soccer Club are tools that he and the other volunteers use to motivate Richmond kids to go to college.

“Getting our kids to go to college is a big challenge, because our kids have a low high school graduation rate,” said Rodriguez. “How do we make our kids understand that they have to go to college to have a better life? In the Latino community, in general, that is a problem.”