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.”






The Great Tomato Sale

Photo Essay • David Meza

Did you know that Russia has its own special tomato? How about Japan? Kentucky?

If you attended the Great Tomato Plant Sale, “Heirlooms Of The World,” at the AdamsCrest Urban Farm in East Richmond Heights Apr. 11, you would have seen all of them and more. University of California Master Gardeners,
along with city environmental officials and local agricultural advocates, all collaborated to host the annual event, now in its fourth year.

The sale featured high-quality heirloom tomato and vegetable plants, each for $3. More than 200 attendees chose from over 50 varieties of tomatoes, raised by master gardeners from the university and recommended to grow well in home gardens in this area. Also for sale were varieties of vegetable plants, grown on the farm by Urban Tilth, which advocates for healthy food and cultivates agriculture in the county.

The tomato plant sale proceeds will go to support community education classes and the community gardens at the university. Master gardeners from the university were also on hand to answer questions on plant selection, planting, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting and protecting plants from insects.

In partnership with the master gardeners, the city of Richmond’s Environmental and Health Initiatives gave away free compost to community members at the event. Traditionally, the city hosts its own annual compost giveaway, but this year joined forces with the university and Urban Tilth for a community collaboration.

“Instead of hosting [the compost giveaway] independently like past years, we felt the event and donation would be more effective if we collaborate with groups already leading gardening and urban agriculture initiatives in the community,” according to Richmond Health and Sustainability Associate Mike Uberti.

Republic Services donated the compost from its Richmond facility. Richmond remains one of the only cities in the Bay Area with a closed-loop composting program, in which it transforms food scraps from residents into compost and returns it to them.

Along with offering vegetable and locally made honey, staff from Urban Tilth coordinated their monthly volunteer day, in which community members can learn hands-on about sustainable methods for growing food while harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables.

AdamsCrest Farm, formerly a field of the recently closed Adams Middle School, was repurposed by Urban Tilth into an operational farm in 2009.

Indian or American? Fight Over Yoga in US Can Tie Us Up in Knots

Criss-cross applesauce?

That’s what a school in Encinitas, California, calls the padmasana or lotus position in its effort to make yoga sound more all-American.

It worked. A three-judge panel of the 4th district court of appeal has upheld a lower court ruling that the Encinitas school district could continue to offer yoga programmes to its students.

It’s being hailed as great victory for yoga which it is. The court has basically told a group of paranoid parents that the yoga mat is not some red carpet laid out to usher Hinduism into American schools. And just because they learn to sit in a lotus position, these school children were not being indoctrinated into some exotic Eastern religion.

The courts reassured the parents that not only was the programme “secular” and not about “advancing or inhibiting religion” but it was also now “a distinctly American cultural phenomenon” despite its Indian roots. The school superintendent hailed the original decision calling yoga “21st century P.E.” with “amazing” health benefits as if it was not thousands of years old.

What would Shripad Naik, India’s cabinet minister for yoga make of that?

Narendra Modi has made it quite clear that he’s putting the Indian back in yoga. He went to the UN and asked for an International Yoga Day. He set up a cabinet post. He told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria how he tells everyone to practice yoga. He is a bona fide yoga evangelist. And the Make in India PM wants there to be no question that yoga was Made in India not born out of immaculate conception in a Manhattan studio.

And therein lies the problem of ownership. Could India claim yoga the way a region in France claims champagne and protects it from fizzy fascimiles elsewhere? For that to happen, writes Tanaya Basu in The Atlantic, Modi would need to secure a “geographical indication” which is a formal acknowledgement of a “location’s importance to a specific product”. But yoga, Basu writes “unlike champagne – which is made from grapes grown in a particular region with distinct weather conditions and soil content – yoga can’t be held in your hand.”

While yoga indisputably comes from India, a headstand in Pune is not that different from a headstand in San Francisco. And that says Sonia Katyal, law professor at Fordham University, “makes it a little harder to explain how its Indian origins are always essential to the practice or characteristics of yoga today.” Replace India with Hinduism in this discussion and the “geographic indication” becomes even trickier.
The Hindu American Foundation started the Take Yoga Back campaign after they noticed the Yoga Journal never linked yoga to Hinduism because it told them, “Hinduism has a lot of baggage”.

The “Taking Back” idea sparked quite war of words between HAF’s Aseem Shukla and Deepak Chopra in Washington Post and then HAF’s Swaminathan Venkataraman and Meera Nanda in Open Magazine. Nanda argued that it was ludicrous to “draw an unbroken line connecting 21st century yogic postures with the nearly 2,000 year-old Yoga Sutras, and tie both to the supposedly 5,000 year-old Vedas”. HAF responded that “requiring everything Hindu be traceable back to Vedic times is ludicrous” and a driver behind the campaign was not just a Yoga Journal not mentioning the H-word but an attempt by some Christians to create a “Christian Yoga”. HAF’s Sheetal Shah also told The Atlantic that despite the name, it was not about taking yoga ‘back’ from anyone. It was about acknowledging yoga’s Hindu roots instead of burying them under a sticky mat.

HAF has had to think this through more thoroughly than some of the more gung ho Made in India acolytes who want to have it both ways. They want their yoga to be Hindu-branded AND they are up in arms if a school is prevented from offering it. In a statement it issued about yoga in public schools, HAF carefully threads the needle.

“Under the First Amendment, public schools may offer yoga-based programs, such as asana-only programs, as part of their curriculum because asana alone is not yoga. Public schools should not offer programs that go beyond the instruction of asana and other physical components of yoga. As such, community groups are free to offer more comprehensive yoga programs during non-school hours using school facilities on the same basis as other community groups sponsoring religious and secular programs for youth.”

The problem is the asana has been conflated with the larger concept of yoga and now it’s difficult to separate the part from the whole. That’s why a court has to step in. But neither is it easy to maintain that divide. Sharanjit Sandhu, a yoga instructor in San Francisco, told me that she realizes the value of chanting Om to get into the ride side of the brain during yoga class but also understands that it would be problematic to do that in a school gymnasium in California.

What in a way is perhaps more concerning than Yoga Journal’s H-avoidance is an Indian American who confesses he learned more about shlokas in his yoga class led by a blonde instructor than from his immigrant parents. Middle and upper middle-class India has only recently rediscovered yoga and that rediscovery isn’t unlinked to its booming commercial popularity in the West. Meanwhile a Catholic priest in Mumbai, Father Joseph Pereira teaches yoga around the world and calls its Christian opponents “God addicts”. “Yoga is not just a work out, it’s a work-in,” he tells

Now, the Encinitas school district calls our Lotus position criss-cross applesauce. And while the purist in me bristles at that appropriation, another part of me wonders why that’s so different from Bhavesh becoming Bob in California in order to make it in America.

In that sense yoga too has become the classic immigrant story – born in India and remade in America.

Sandip Roy is author of “Don’t Let Him Know,” and an editor at where the above essay orginally appeared. 

Local Happenings March 2015

From the Pulse news desk

Richmond to Survey Residents

The City of Richmond is conducting its 2015 Community Survey. In the next few weeks questionnaires will be sent to a random sample of 3,000 Richmond residents, asking them to comment on the community’s pressing needs and city services.

The purpose of the survey is to help city officials evaluate services, measure resident satisfaction and help plan for Richmond’s future. The results of the survey will be included in a final report available to all city officials, staff and residents.
For more information, call 510-620-6512.


Workshop Connects Vendors With Businesses

The City of Richmond will host a “How to Do Business in the City of Richmond” Vendor Workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, April 2 in the City Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza.

Vendors are invited to attend and learn the procurement process and how to do business with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Chevron Corporation, West Contra Costa Unified School District and the City of Richmond.

To RSVP, visit


Calling All Future Teachers

The Contra Costa County Office of Education hosts its annual Contra Costa County Teacher/Certificated Staff Recruitment Fair from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 11 in the Pittsburg High School gymnasium, 1750 Harbor Street.

Attendees will find a number of teaching positions in a variety of fields, including all levels of K-12 education, specialty and substitute teaching positions.

Representatives of some of these open positions will be offering interviews on site.
Along with the CCCOE, representatives from eight Contra Costa County school districts will be on hand: Clayton Valley Charter HS, John Swett USD, Liberty UHSD, Martinez USD, Mt. Diablo USD, Pittsburg USD, San Ramon Valley USD, and West Contra Costa USD. In addition, members from Brandman University and UC Berkeley Extension will talk about earning teaching credentials and their teaching programs.

For more information about this free event, call 925-942-3387 or visit


New Exhibit Highlights Chinese Shrimp Camps of Richmond

A new exhibit on Chinese shrimping villages on the San Francisco Bay is open at the Richmond Museum of History, 400 Nevin Ave.

The exhibit focuses on the Richmond shrimp camps through a combination of historical photographs, archaeological evidence, maps, oral history and family recollections.

The museum will host a public program on the collection at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11. During the event, speaker Calvin Fong will discuss his extensive research into his father’s shrimping business in Richmond. The event is free with general museum admission.

The Richmond History Museum is open from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday. For more information, call 510-235-7387 or visit

Women of Richmond Still Making History

By Leslie Basurto

Richmond Police Captain Bisa French was the keynote speaker at this year’s International Women’s Day celebration in Richmond.

As the Richmond Police Department’s first ever African-American woman to be captain, French discussed the importance of “planting seeds” in the minds of young people. She took those in attendance on a journey through her career, from being a single mom to joining the police force and rising to captain. She said that she got to where she is today because of the seeds that were planted in her mind.

The celebration, “Sisters in Solidarity/Hermanas en Solidaridad,” was hosted March 7 by the Richmond City Council at Nystrom Elementary School Auditorium.

The mood inside the auditorium was lively. The day was full of food, networking, discussions and even some Zumba dancing.

_IGP3920The morning began with an opening ceremony led by Councilmember Jovanka Beckles. “As a community, as communities throughout the Bay Area, throughout the nation, throughout the world,” said Beckles, “it makes my heart feel good that we as women can come together to make a difference in our community. We are the healers, the nurturers and the strength of every community.”

Other councilmembers present at the event included Gayle McLaughlin, Eduardo Martinez and Jael Myrick.

The theme of this year’s event was, “Women Make it Happen.” With that in mind, local activists discussed their personal stories, including the obstacles they faced and their achievements. Speakers included Bishop Edwina Perez Santiago, executive director of Reach Fellowship International, Sandy Saeturn, a community organizer with Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Courtney Cummings, a peer specialist with Native Wellness Center, Jessica Wright-Davis, director of academic and student affairs at Making Waves Education Program, and community organizer Claudia Jimenez.

Before lunch, which was catered by local Thai Restaurant SaWadee, everyone participated in Zumba, led by instructor Adela Orozco. Not a person was seated in sight. The conference also featured entertainment by the East Bay Center for Performing Arts group Son de La Tierra, and Bright Futures Growth and Development Center Youth Performers.

_IGP3963Former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who started the first International Women’s Day celebration in Richmond in 2008, said the purpose of the conference was to inspire women who have made positive changes in Richmond.

“This year’s event was such a beautiful celebration of the diverse leadership of women we have in Richmond,” said McLaughlin. “I am proud to have started this tradition during my tenure as mayor back in 2008, and it was equally as satisfying being more in the background this year having a chance to engage in a relaxed manner with so many great women leaders.”

International Women’s Day dates back to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, and voting rights. Since then, the event has been celebrated each year. By 1920, women were given the right to vote in the United States, but in 2015 they have yet to see equality in pay or representation.

McLaughlin stressed the importance of coming together to honor local activists.

“We, as women, understand oppression and we know that uniting with one another is the way to further make gains not only for women, but for the entire human race,” said McLaughlin. “I believe that we, as women, have a leading role to play in the advancement of all humanity.”


Art Center Tours Unveil its Possibilities

Photo Essay, Malcolm Marshall

Children and families explored their creative spirits together by seeing and making art at a bilingual art tour hosted by the Richmond Art Center March 7.

Lauren Ari, a teacher at the art center, led the group of about 10 on a guided tour of the center’s galleries, along with a hands-on art-making activity. Children’s ages ranged from 3 to 8.

“We go through all the different studios,” Ari said, “so they’re in the metal studio and the painting studio and the weaving and clay… and we talk about all the different ways of making art.”

The group consisted of all first-time visitors, said Ari, who noted that many Richmond resident still need to learn about the art center and all it has to offer. She said she hopes the monthly tours, presented in conjunction with the nearby Richmond Public Library, will bring more people to the center.

“People can get some books, then come over here and see an art show or take a class,” Ari said.

Local resident Rich Robb, who attended with his wife and daughter, said they had never been inside in the center until the tour, and found himself pleasantly surprised.

“The best part of today is seeing all the possibilities here, for classes and to be able to make things,” Robb said. “The fact they have free classes is excellent. It’s a good place for the community.”

Ari agreed.

“It can be intimidating,” she said. “The tour is a way to make art come alive for everyone. This is their art center, this is our community’s art center and it’s free. You can come and see a show for free. We have classes and scholarships. It’s a way to bring everybody in.”

For more information on the tours, visit


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