Local Happenings July 2015

Independence Day Celebration

The City of Richmond will sponsor its annual 3rd of July Celebration from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 3 at Marina Bay Park.

The (mostly) free event will include fireworks, food, live blues music and a pay-to-play youth area. The 20-minute fireworks display will start at 9:15 pm.

For more information, call 510-620- 6793.


New Park Opening

The grand opening of Santa Fe Union Park, formerly known as the South 2nd Street Play Lot, is scheduled for noon on Saturday, July 18.

The celebration will include food, refreshments and remarks from local community leaders and members. The park, located on South Second Street between Florida Avenue and Main Avenue, has undergone a total renovation with new children’s play areas and basketball and soccer courts.

To RSVP for the grand opening event, visit 4richmond.org of call the at 510-260-0290.


Reggae in Richmond

Reggae music will be center stage during a three-day festival coming to Richmond this month.

The Bay Area Reggae Festival is scheduled for July 17-19 at the Craneway Pavilion (1414 Harbour Way). Artists scheduled to appear include Bugle, Gyptian, Lady Saw, Romain Virgo, and Marcia Griffiths, among others. Ticket prices range from $75-$195, and will increase if purchased after July 9.

For a full list of performers or to purchase tickets, visit bayareareggaefest.net


New City of Richmond Mobile App

A City of Richmond app is now available for IOS devices and Android mobile phones. The app was designed to provide Richmond’s community members with one-stop access to city services and information. An informational video providing an overview of the app is accessible online from the city’s website.

The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and at Google Play.

Richmond officials would like feedback from the community on the new app, send in comments to webservices@ci.richmond.ca.us

Native American Culture Celebrated and Displayed in Richmond

Story and Photos by Luis Cubas

Among the vibrant array of colors, the jingling of bells rang out as dancers closed into a circle at this year’s sixth annual Richmond Pow-Wow, “Dancing for Our Next Generation.” The event took place on June 20 and brought hundreds of people, of all ages, together at Wendell Park in Richmond.

“We were dancing for not only our ancestors but also for the next generation, the ones that haven’t been born yet,” said Courtney Cummings, the organizer of the event. “We dance to let them know that we are thinking about them and praying for them.”

The City of Richmond, Mayor Tom Butt’s office and anonymous donors and volunteers from the community hosted the Pow-Wow.

The event served as a celebration (and education) of Native American culture. This year’s Pow-Wow brought out dancers from Sacramento, Humboldt County, and Fresno, as well as a traditional medicine man from Montana.

“The purpose of the Pow-Wow is a social gathering for Native American communities in an urban setting,” said Cummings, who is from the northern Cheyenne Arikara Creek Tribe and an enrolled member of three affiliated tribes.

In addition to the dancing and performances, foods such as fry bread and Indian tacos were for sale at the event. There was also handmade jewelry for purchase.

Before the day was over, Mackenzie Phillips, 12, was crowned this year’s Pow-Wow Princess. She will represent Richmond for the next year at all the surrounding pow-wows and special events.

Cummings said she was pleased with the number of youth who turned out for the event. “We had more young boys in traditional regalia this year then I’ve witnessed in the last five years prior to this,” she said. “That’s a good sign that our young people have decided to follow and participate in their culture and traditional ways.

Rachel Dolezal Poses Ugly Challenges to America

Rachel Dolezal Poses Ugly Challenges to America

Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson | New America Media Posted: Jun 16, 2015


Yet the fact that she found herself unceremoniously plopped square in the middle of these controversies says less about her, than it does about the tenuous and problematic ground that issues of race, ethnicity and gender rest on. Let’s go down the list. Dolezal proudly declared herself a black woman. That’s far different than many whites who, through a mix of infatuation and identity search, latch onto what’s perceived as the hip, cool, slightly rebellious black culture. This compulsive need for some whites to identify with blacks even prompted the coining of the term “white Negro” by Norman Mailer in 1957, to describe whites who are wannabe blacks.

Dolezal took it a step further and proclaimed herself African American. That might have been the end of the story if she had just lived quietly in Spokane. But she headed a chapter of the nation’s best-known civil rights organization. This raises another question: Can a white person lead a civil rights organization that has been strongly identified throughout much of its history as a black rights advocacy organization?

The question has been fiercely debated from time immemorial. The NAACP makes it clear that it judges leadership not on the basis of color but on commitment. Fair enough, but thousands of other blacks don’t. They are adamant that black organizations should be led by blacks who supposedly bring more sensitivity, understanding, and role-model visibility and credibility to the leadership positions in these organizations. No matter how often it is pointed out that whites have played a role as supporters, initiators, and even leaders in countless fights for civil rights, this will not convince many blacks who still believe their white colleagues must be relegated to a subservient role in civil rights organizations.

Dolezal challenged that belief, not just by being something other than “African American,” but, from all accounts, being a supremely dedicated and effective leader on the hot-button issues of education, health care, criminal justice reform, hate crimes and police abuse.

Then the issue got muddied again when it was discovered that as a fine arts student at Howard University, a historically black university, she sued the school charging reverse discrimination. At the time, she was purportedly a white student. Though the suit was dismissed, it stirred the pot again on whether whites really have any case that they can be victims of racial discrimination.

Dolezal’s suit seemed to say that white people can claim discrimination when it suits them, and then deftly pivot and assume a black identity when that suits them.

The other thorny question is whether the Dolezal saga will ignite the next great debate over just who is what, when it comes to defining a person’s race, ethnicity, and, as we saw recently with formerly Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner, their gender. The new buzz words that almost certainly will confuse, divide, and provoke many in the coming years will be over transracialism and transgenderism. This has already sparked debate about just how someone should classify themselves for Census purposes. Many blacks have fiercely opposed the biracial designations, charging that this serves to dilute their political numbers, strength and clout.

But the speed with which the Dolezal story took flight can be directly attributed to the thirst by the mainstream media for even the slightest hint of salacious gossip, especially when it comes to race and sex. That thirst is helped along by a social media that takes giddy delight in endlessly looping any juicy tidbit of race or sex gossip faster than the speed of light. The Dolezal story was made in heaven for both types of media. This is both an exciting and dangerous trend that will become a fixture in American media from now on.

Whatever their motives, Dolezal’s family knew that they could drop a story about their daughter’s alleged racial duplicity and the media and the public would run with it. This smacks of more rank manipulation that can be rerun again and again in other situations where families want to air their dirty laundry before the public. We may have seen the last of Dolezal, with her resignation from the presidency of the Spokane NAACP, but we haven’t seen the last of the ugly challenges that her story posed to America.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. His forthcoming book is: From King to Obama: Witness to a Turbulent History (Middle Passage Press).

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: twitter.com/earlhutchinson

Richmond Celebrates First Pride Family Day


By Malcolm Marshall | Photos by Darryl Pelletier

Richmond celebrated its first-ever Pride in the Park Family Day June 6 at Marina Bay Park.

More than 200 people of all ages came out to the family picnic designed to give the local Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) community an opportunity to come together and meet each other. Rainbow flags flew around the park as attendees enjoyed food, a DJ, live music and performances including a drag performance.

“It brought tears to my eyes to see that day had finally come to Richmond,” said longtime Richmond resident Duane Chapman, co-founder of Richmond Rainbow Pride, a new group founded to represent Richmond’s gay community at the San Francisco Pride Parade. Richmond Rainbow Pride organized the family day with support from Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, Terrance Cheung, chief of staff for Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, the Rainbow Community Center and others.

When he was at the SF Pride celebration a few years ago, Chapman said, he discussed the idea of bringing the event to Richmond with former assistant City Manager Leslie Knight. But he ultimately decided that it wasn’t the right time.

Then, when he saw the gay pride flag flying at Richmond City Hall for the last two years, he knew it was the right time. After being introduced to Cesar Zepeda, who shared the same vision, the two formed Richmond Rainbow Pride and decided to hold the first-ever LGBTQ pride event in Richmond.

In 2013, amid some backlash, the City of Richmond began flying the flag at City Hall in June to celebrate LGBTQ pride month. The push to fly the flag came from Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who is Richmond’s first openly gay councilmember.

Since then, Beckles says she has seen a change in Richmond.

“Years ago, vicious attacks on the LGBTQ community were common and allowed to go unchallenged. No longer,” Beckles wrote in an email.

“By standing strong and proud in public, the LGBTQ community in Richmond is now respected. There are still problems, but the leadership and support that is emerging in the LGBTQ community and organized this wonderful picnic are a big part of the solution.”

Attendees at Marina Bay Park wore name tags, shared food, danced and celebrated Richmond’s LGBTQ community. Zapar said the picnic was a chance for the community to celebrate diversity but also its many similarities.

“People from all over came out to partake in the celebration; gay and straight, old and young, white, Latino, black, Asian; the whole LGBTQI rainbow,” said Zepeda. “Pride in the Park showed the community that we are here and, most importantly, that nobody is alone.”


An Open Letter from a Samoan ‘Caitlyn’- Jaiyah Saelua

To my beloved Samoan community,

Firstly & most importantly, #CallHerCaitlyn Bruce Jenner is no more. She has evolved into a human who is living her truth, as should all human beings, transgender or not.

Transgender women prefer to be called who they appear as; it helps with confidence & self-esteem. And if you aren’t sure, out of respect, ask. Simple as that.

Fa’afafine is the third gender specific to the Samoan culture, but the stereotypes associated with fa’afafine are mostly positive – a perspective that western cultures are freshly adapting to. When I speak to western societies through press about fa’afafine, I speak of those positive aspects (reliable, compassionate, loving, organized, talented), because the lesson for them is tolerance.

For the first time, I will address the problems many Pacific island cultures have with their perception of their respective 3rd gender.

Familial support and respect are key to maintaining a healthy and balanced relationship between a fa’afafine & their community. As do most things, a child’s perspectives on life begin within the family. Caitlyn Jenner might give a young fa’afafine hope to become her true self one day, but when that truth isn’t being supported at home, their paths become wavering and almost immediately comes trouble.

Respect is said to be the foundation of the Samoan culture, and that includes respect for fa’afafine. Fa’afafine who are respected by their families and community are able to overcome obstacles more easily and realize their abilities to reach their highest potentials earlier in life. These fa’afafine become very crucial members of society.

Everyone knows that Samoan humor is crude, but to what extent does it become an issue of the Samoan people? How can one support Caitlyn Jenner [who is without a doubt an icon for transgender women & fa’afafine together, but a complete stranger] and not support the fa’afafine in their own families? That is when it becomes an issue. We must understand that joking about a fa’afafine is not a means of support. Understand them first.

A million transgender women can be visible in their societies and it truly helps when those women are well-known (ie: Janet Mock, Lavern Cox, Carmen Carrera, Caitlyn Jenner), but change comes from society members who do not understand or tolerate. They are the target. They exist within our Pacific Island communities, and I strongly feel that this is a crucial time for these lessons to be introduced to them. Pacific means peace. Let the world learn from the people who hold the true meaning.

I love you my Tagata Pasifika. Love one another.

Love fa’afafine.

This article was first published in
 Suga Magazine Online.

Richmond Commuters Trade Four Wheels For Two

By David Meza

Sequoia Erasmus,Gabino Arredondo,Emila Lipman,Marilyn Langlois,Jovanka Beckles, Adam Linz

Even though the weather threatened to rain on their parade, nearly 700 Richmond commuters took part in the annual Bike to Work Day May 14.

The event encourages commuters to leave their cars at home and choose alternate transportation to get to work — a way to save on gas, skip traffic and get some exercise all in one.

The City of Richmond, in collaboration with local businesses and advocacy groups, hosted four “energizer stations” across the city where riders could get coffee, snacks and a tote bag filled with giveaways on their way to work. Stations were located at Marina Bay Park, the Richmond Greenway, the intersection of San Pablo and Macdonald avenues and the Richmond BART station.

Mike Uberti, a health and sustainability associate with the city, said Richmond has organized a Bike to Work Day for the past six years.

“Bike to Work is special because it is a regional event, with Richmond riders joining the greater Bay Area to showcase biking as an effective, popular mode of transportation,” Uberti said. “It also encourages first-time riders, or people who may not just regularly bike, to think of bicycling as more than an activity or hobby, but also as a reliable commute option.”

For Emila Lipman, the event became her first time riding her bike to work. Now, she said, “I will try to bike the 14 miles to work once a month.”

New this year were volunteers from Pogo Park, who took pedestrian-biking surveys at the Richmond Greenway station, looking to find out more about bike use and pedestrian infrastructure needs in the community.

Uberti said this was also the first year that the event didn’t see a substantial increase in riders — which he said was a good thing.

“In the past, we were noticing a growing trend, but now we are starting to see a more established base of riders who recognize biking as a safe and reliable option within Richmond,” he said. “We hope to continue to build bicycling as a cost-efficient, sustainable, and safe method of transportation for the Richmond community.”

Other organizations to participate included Bike East Bay, 511 Contra Costa, Rich City Rides, The Richmond Bicycle / Pedestrian Advisory Committee and local business SunPower.

Richmond bart Bike rack

Richmond’s Native American Health Center Hosts Children’s Mental Health Day

by Malcolm Marshall


More than 15 years after a landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health brought attention to mental illness as an “urgent health concern,” many youth and adults with mental illness are still not getting the treatment they need.

To begin tackling this issue, and expand awareness of mental health issues, the Native American Health Center in Richmond hosted its third annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 8. This year’s free community event featured guest speakers and youth workshops aimed at developing a community definition of mental health.

“I looked up the definition of mental health, because I didn’t know it,” said Michael Dyer, program manager at the health center, as he welcomed youth and families to the event. “It said ‘a state of well-being’. It’s very vague and you don’t quite get the meaning from that. We can define mental health together.”

The lack of a working definition means youth aren’t always able to identify their problem, Dyer said, so they don’t seek treatment.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition nationwide. In California the children with the highest rates of serious mental illness include Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans, according to a 2013 study by the California HealthCare Foundation.

The Native American Health Center serves Native American youth and adults, offering crisis prevention and early intervention services like support groups and counseling. It’s also a cultural hub for Native Americans, where people can learn about their culture through traditional art and music classes.

“When we were asking the youth [what mental health meant], during the planning stages for this event, no one knew what it meant,” said Dyer. “The one person that did raise their hand to answer said, ‘mental health is when you go crazy.'”

As part of the day’s activities, the center’s media team set up a video booth to interview people about their own personal definition of mental health. In another room, the center asked people to write on a wall what mental health meant to them.

Some of the phrases written were, “loving yourself and others,” “friends and family,” “listening to your body and heart,” “being positive,” and “keeping your mind fit.”

The center’s event was part of a national movement to increase awareness of mental health issues. This year marked the 10th anniversary of a national awareness day, meant to raise awareness of mental health in children and advocate for comprehensive care.

Newly appointed Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, told the Washington Post that he believes in improving public health by creating a prevention-based society. And, he said he has included emotional and mental well being in his top four rules for health.

In Richmond, Dyer said he hoped to also highlight the things that go into having a strong mental state.

“We want to show the community that it’s ok to reach out,” he said. “Being able to check in with yourself, and acknowledge that you’re sad or depressed and that you need a support system.”



Cinco de Mayo Festival, Better than Imagined


Photo Essay, Josue Hernandez

Each year thousands of people come out for one of Richmond’s biggest events, the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival organized by the 23rd Street Merchants Association. This year it was held on May 2, and for the first time I decided to see what all the hype was about.

The free, all day celebration of Mexican culture included exhibits, live music, dancing, food and fun for the kids with jumpers and slides.

After years of not attending, I went this year to work with my mom, Gloria Hernandez, selling food at the event. My Mom has always been a good cook and last year she started her own business, Gloria’s Tacos, catering weddings and parties.

My sister, Karina Hernandez, and I took orders as Mom made traditional Mexican fare —tortas, tacos, aguas frescas and more.

Once there, I was surprised by how many people families attended and I wondered why I didn’t come every year. I thought it was going to be people drinking, being obnoxious and not celebrating in a respectable way, but it was not like that and it blew me away.

The vibe was energetic with something happening at every spot along two miles of 23rd Street between Clinton Avenue and Rheem Avenue. Seeing the traditional native dancers perform the dances that my ancestors did while chanting in old native languages made me feel connected to my Mexican roots. Vaqueros atop horses also danced around, performing and low riders showed off their classic cars.

Mexican flags waved in the wind around the festival and people sold handmade, traditional goods from Mexico. My grandmother also had her own booth, selling Mexican ponchos and folklórico dresses.

After such a good time this year, I’m ready for the next one.

Documentary About Young Richmond Poets Premieres at El Cerrito High

Story and Video • Ann Bassette

Hundreds of people filled the El Cerrito High School theater on April 29 to watch the world premiere of the film “Romeo is Bleeding,” a candid and revealing documentary following the lives of a group of young, spoken word artists — known as Richmond Artists with Talent, or just RAW Talent.

Led by first time director Jason Zeldes, this deeply researched and eloquently edited film, includes multiple views and stories to give outsiders an accurate illustration of life in Richmond, California.

The film focuses on Donté Clark, 25, during 2012 and 2013 as he and the RAW Talent team wrote, rehearsed and performed his first play, “Te’s Harmony.” The play is a modern day remix of Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s loosely based on Clark’s own life growing up in North Richmond, and focuses on the feuds between the neighborhoods in Richmond and how they affect the lives of the people who live there.

But more than capturing the artistic process, the documentary examines the intersection of life and art in a city plagued with street turmoil.

“‘Romeo Is Bleeding’ explores the roots of violence in Richmond,” said Molly Raynor, RAW Talent’s co-founder and Arts Program Coordinator, “and documents the efforts of young artists to heal themselves and their community through spoken word poetry and theater.”

The documentary shows what it’s like to live in Clark’s world as he makes his first attempt at playwriting. We see Clark as humble, analytical, honest and funny. Interviews with Clark’s older brothers give insight into what the streets of North Richmond looked like during the height of feuding. It also shows the pain and turmoil Clark went through as he grieved the loss of a friend and a RAW Talent co-founding member, 19-year-old Dimarea Young, who was shot and killed in front of his father and brother in the spring of 2013.

“I feel like in Richmond, California we have two sides who are at odds,” Clark said, describing the parallels between the city he knows and “Romeo and Juliet.” “But the thing is, it’s not two separate families. We’re all family, and we are intermixing, and we’re having young children who have to straddle the fence on my daddy is from this side and my mom’s from that side — but both of my cousins are killing each other. So, what we try to do is just take that story and show you that this is a family. It’s not a gang. It’s not individuals just out here doing wild things. It’s people who are hurt.”

“What surprised me was exactly what Donté says in the film, art imitates life,” Raynor said. “During the year we were creating a film aimed at eradicating violence in Richmond, four young men Donté knew were shot and killed.”

“While the film initially was going to focus in more on the actual nuts and bolts of putting on ‘Te’s Harmony,’ the violence itself shifted the course of the film,” she added. “Life influenced art.”

Inside the theater, the diverse crowd reacted with laughter and finger snaps throughout the premier, and applauded as the end credits rolled. A question and answer segment featuring the director and cast followed, explaining how the film is meant to serve as a healing tools for the cast and the community.

RAW Talent began as a school-based spoken word group but has gone on to create stage productions and a documentary film. “Romeo is Bleeding” is part of this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. It will be showing next at 2:00 p.m. on May 3 at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Art Center Event Turns Trash Into Treasure

Story and Photos • Sonya Mann

Richmond Art Center Upcycle 4-24-2015 best shots (4)Is one person’s garbage another person’s art?

You could find the answer at the Richmond Art Center’s Upcycle event April 25, in which local artists — rather than recycling trash — focused on upgrading throwaway materials into new and beautiful creations.

Volunteers at the event, now in its third year, staffed arts-and-crafts stations where they encouraged more than 300 attendees to fold-form copper pendants, make wild paper hats or crowns, paint old vinyl records, decorate a sidewalk trash can with pottery shards, weave rugs out of rags, turn T-shirts into quilts, and more.
“The idea behind Upcycle is using recycled material to create original works of art,” said Richard Ambrose, executive director of the art center. Free and kid-friendly, Upcycle hosted activities appropriate for various ages. Parents and children milled around, moving back and forth from outdoor tables to indoor workshops at the event.

“It’s an opportunity for parents to do interactive activities with their kids,” Ambrose said.

Local artist Bre Gipson staffed one of the outdoor stations that specialized in assemblage — a three-dimensional form of collage. She displayed her fantastical, ocean-evoking sculptures, fashioned from industrial foam, plastic, and miscellaneous doodads, as examples of the Upcycle ethos: using trash headed for a landfill to create something new and exciting, whether practical or simply visually pleasing.

Gipson’s sculptures demonstrated the joy of the form; bright, shimmery colors and knobby bumps that appealed to curious fingers. She encouraged participants to touch her creations, and children working at her table were quick to take advantage of the opportunity — a significant departure from the museum rules that they might have encountered at a less interactive event.

Inside the building, artist Ed Lay instructed the copper jewelry workshop. Lee Micheaux and her fourth-grade daughter Mariella used popsicle sticks to work the thin metal into leaf-shaped pendants.

“The volunteers are so wonderful — they work so hard,” said Micheaux, who had attended every annual Upcycle event since the first in 2013. She praised the consistent creativity of the art center’s activities — echoing the sentiment of many other parents, who said they were excited to have their kids taught how a little effort and enthusiasm can give easily discarded material a second life.

Richmond Art Center Upcycle 4-24-2015 best shots (5)According to its website, the Richmond Art Center aims to “deliver exciting arts experiences to young and old alike who reflect the diverse richness of our community.”