Teresa Jimenez: Food as Power

by Edgardo Cervano-Soto

Teresa Jimenez, 22, found a surprising way to deal with the stress of high school.

“Honestly, I wasn’t doing so [well],” Teresa explains. “I was cutting a lot of school. There was a lot of pressure to be a certain way and I didn’t feel I could socially relate to that. I feel that the teachers just saw me as, ‘Well, she is cutting class and she may not be that bright.’”

TereJA daughter of parents who had migrated from Mexico to the United States in search of the American dream, Teresa says she had trouble finding something she was passionate about.

Then her teacher, Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl, invited her to be part of the AP classes he was teaching.

“At that moment,” says Teresa, “I thought, ‘You think I am that smart to be in those classes?’ He believed in me.”

He also encouraged her to start working in the Richmond High School garden.

Teresa found the garden to be a sanctuary for her — a space that was different from the pressure of the high school hallways. She felt a sense of accomplishment whenever she completed a physical task in the garden. She had found a way to let go of stress.

Hands“Whenever I am experiencing stress, I need to let it out in a physical form. What better way than to do gardening instead of doing something negative with all that energy we carry around sometimes?”

In Mexico, Teresa’s family had owned their own livestock and grown their own produce. Fresh fruits, vegetables and meats had been a constant in her home.

But when they moved to the United States, they started taking on American eating habits. They did what other American families deemed normal: buy groceries at a store.

“I was very disconnected [from the land] in the moment we migrated over here. There wasn’t so much gardening and growing your own foods here,” recalls Teresa.

When she started gardening and learning about healthy eating at school, Teresa tried to apply the lessons at home.

But it wasn’t easy.

“My parents were advocates for eating healthy but only in their perception of what healthy was. A lot of it was processed foods and heavy on the meats,” says Teresa.

So she took baby steps, introducing her family to collard greens and other green vegetables. While the changes were subtle, she knew the change in diet would reap benefits, particularly in her parents’ health. Both of her parents had high cholesterol and suffered from depression. Teresa researched how changes in diet could improve people’s moods, and began incorporating them into her family’s meals.

TereGardenThat’s when she realized the potential of gardening and growing your own food.

“I’m beginning to see food not just as something to consume but food as power. Food can determine your moods, and how healthy you are going to be,” she says.

“Where is your food coming from? Who controls the food we consume? What about access?” she asks. “We have the power to teach about gardening,” she says, “and even if we plant a seed, that is power already.”

After completing a summer apprentice program, Teresa got a job at Urban Tilth, a non-profit organization in Richmond that cultivates community gardens and small urban farms.

“My parents would rather see me working at a bank than seeing me coming in with my hands dirty,” says Teresa, who explains that her father used to work for years in the fields and didn’t want to see his daughter do the same thing. But, she explains, what she is doing is different kind of farming than what her father did.

Eventually, she says, her parents started to see the benefits she was getting from her work.

She wasn’t just bringing home fresh food. She was taking a leadership role in her community and was launching her goal of going to college to study psychology.

It’s still hard for her to explain what she does to her parents, but Teresa says she knows they support her. Now when she takes her family to visit the gardens, she says, her dad looks over her work and gives her tips on how to grow food efficiently and effectively.

Verde Elementary Hosts Anti-Bullying Event

Photo Essay, David Meza

Verde Elementary School in North Richmond hosted an anti-bullying rally on April 16th. The “Anti Bully Machine” event was organized by second grade teacher Lola Sims, with the goal of encouraging and teaching children how to treat each other with decency and respect at all times, and increase safety on campus and in the community.

According to Sims, bullying is an issue that needs to be addressed, even in elementary school. “I [see] my students being afraid, upset, losing their appetites and not participating in class because of bullying,” said Sims. “The idea was to get students to do activities that would [teach] how not to be a bully.”

10262125_779874368699242_4611799738525213600_nAll of Verde’s 334 students plus scores of residents and parents attended the event. Students wore anti bullying t-shirts, made friendship bracelets and painted peace signs and messages on clothing. Master Jones of the Soaring Eagles martial arts group in Pinole led students in a martial arts demonstration and in role-play activities. Richmond Police also led students through activities, and the students themselves performed a play incorporating Brazilian capoeira, that demonstrated how to avoid bullying and how to help others not be a bully. The day ended with students posing for portrait photos courtesy of Zap, Inc.
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Rain Can’t Stop Nature Walkers From Learning, Having Fun

By  Zaira Sierra

YES Nature to Neighborhoods, a local nonprofit that creates opportunities for Richmond residents to connect with nature, held its second annual Walk to Nature event on March 29. The walk was meant to bring community members out to enjoy public spaces like Miller Knox, a local park that is easily accessible to residents of the Iron Triangle. As it turns out, rain forced the event to move indoors to the Nevin Community Center, but the weather didn’t dampen spirits.

Over 250 participants were greeted at the door by a group of smiling volunteers, and a lovely musical performance by students from East Bay Center for the Performing Arts set a celebratory mood.

“We’re trying to get [residents] to come out and access their local parks,” says Blanca Hernandez, the program director at YES. “We’re promoting physical activities that allow you to connect with your community. [The event] gets people out and gets people happy about doing this all together.”

1544565_278434058990343_1102052907_nSome residents took advantage of information and resource tables provided by local organizations including Richmond Main Street Initiative, Girls Inc., East Bay Bicycle Coalition, East Bay Parks, and LifeLong Medical Care, while others got creative at art stations, checked their blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and even got cycling safety tips. As for myself, I joined in on a Zumba dance class and had a lot of fun moving to the Latin rhythms.

Despite the rain, everyone walked away from the event with something valuable — whether that was information about local resource, or a new personal connection made with a fellow Richmonder.

The Nature Walk was sponsored by Building Blocks for Kids, the City of Richmond, Contra Costa Health Services, the YMCA, Kaiser Permanente, the E.M. Downer Family, the Richmond Police Department, East Bay Regional Park District, Weigh of Life, Urban Tilth, Rich City Rides, Lift-Levántate, and YES.

Summit Aims to Educate, Activate Richmond Youth

News from the Mayor’s Office | Written by Nicole Valentino

On Saturday, April 19, while many adults and families from the Richmond community were gathering at Point Molate Beach for the grand re-opening, young people of the city gathered for the 2014 Richmond Youth Summit. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin hosted the summit, at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium, to bring together young people of diverse backgrounds to voice their perspectives and priorities for the city. Building on the efforts of youth and youth advocacy groups in Richmond, the event focused on identifying and supporting youth leadership, creating a youth council, and introducing a form of democratic budgeting called participatory budgeting.

The summit was planned and convened in collaboration with local youth-serving non-profits, including the RYSE Center, SEAYL (Southeast Asian Youth Leaders), Eastbay Center for Performing Arts, and the Freedom Fighters, who helped organize the summit.

The daylong program was free, open to young people ages 14 -21, and included workshops, entertainment, and information tables for youth-serving organizations.

Local young adult activist Melvin Willis emceed the event. He shared his story of shifting from complacency—knowing little of his personal power or the value of civic engagement and collective movements – to actively engaging in transforming his community for the better. Today Melvin is active in housing rights work as well as youth advocacy and a variety of social justice issues. He is a member of ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), the RPA (Richmond Progressive Alliance), and BMOER (Black Mobilization Organization Education Richmond).

Mayor McLaughlin opened the program with enthusiastic remarks about her appreciation of young people in the city. She expressed complete confidence in their ability to know what they need, and to inform adult leaders about their desires and expectations for a healthy and thriving Richmond. The mayor also encouraged the youth to become – or to continue to be –actively engaged in civic and political processes.

The workshops – Barefoot Leadership, Participatory Budgeting and What is a Youth Council? –were designed to stimulate dialogue and produce concrete ideas to influence local policy decisions made by the City Council. Workshops also aimed to encourage young people to organize themselves – with and without adult allies.

The Barefoot Leadership workshop explored what it means to be an agent of change, and it provided practical tools for further exploration and action. It was designed to connect and explore visions for healthy relationships, families, community and the city of Richmond.  Participatory Budgeting explored the role of young people in an innovative democratic process used around the world (and locally –as in neighboring Vallejo), in which average residents help decide how public dollars are spent. In the workshop, young people learned how this could be done in Richmond. The Youth Council workshop focused on the possibilities for a youth council in Richmond. Workshop leaders drew examples from other youth councils, and asked for input about what the right focus would be for Richmond.  The idea here was to envision the formation of a Richmond Youth Council, inspired by voices coming out of the summit and other voices from the youth advocacy community.

Youth artists from SEAYL, the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and RAW Talent (Richmond Artists With Talent) provided awesome entertainment, and a local cooperative catering company, Fusion Latina, provided a delicious lunch.

Adult volunteers and allies were welcome to attend the summit in support of young people,  and their contributions were much appreciated. Special thanks to the RYSE Center’s Jamileh Ibrahimi and Anibal Hurtado, Richmond Library’s Teen Service staff Angela Cox, Richmond Excellence Serving Communities (ESC) program staff Rochelle Monk and Bertha Romo as well as the ESC program volunteers, Richmond PAL, Girls Inc. and mayoral candidate Mike Parker for stepping in and offering to videotape segments of the day.

The program ended with a fun raffle of prizes that included: t-shirts, gift cards for juice drinks, movie theater tickets, and one I-pod nano. Mayor McLaughlin and Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles had closing remarks of gratitude and inspiration for the youth participants at the end of the day.


 Nicole Valentino is a ‎Community Advocate in the Mayor’s Office at City of Richmond.


Growing Up Muslim

New America Media, News Report, Peter Schurmann,

SAN FRANCISCO – There are a quarter million Muslims living in the Bay Area, and nearly half of them are under the age of 35. Many describe an intense personal and spiritual struggle as they look to reconcile their faith with the mainstream of American society.

These young Muslims are the face of American Islam in the 21st century, and yet their stories are rarely heard.

“I prayed five times a day, fasted on occasion and went on Hajj [pilgrimage],” said Omar Raza, who is 16 and a student at Averroes High School in Fremont, the Bay Area’s first Islamic high school. The son of Pakistani immigrants, Raza did these things “because my parents told me to. I never questioned them.”

It was in ninth grade, he says, that he first began looking for answers. “I went through this stage … I was trying to find my purpose.”

Raza delved into Islamic history and theology, which deepened his relationship to the daily rites he had observed since childhood. In that process he also came to see himself in a clearer light. “I realized my identity was in my heart,” he said.

Raza joined a panel of speakers who shared their experiences growing up Muslim at a forum in San Francisco on March 26 sponsored by several Bay Area community foundations and the One Nation Bay Area Project. Organized by New America Media, the event put a spotlight on the voices of young Muslim Americans in the Bay Area.


Above: Dawood Yasin, coordinator of student life activities and Zaytuna College and Farid Senzai, co-author of The Bay Area Muslim Study: Establishing Identity and Community. 

For many on the panel, anti-Muslim sentiment is a near daily experience.

Hatem Bazian is the co-author of a landmark study looking at the Bay Area Muslim community and commissioned by One Nation Bay Area with support from the San Francisco Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Marin Community Foundation, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.  Citing the survey of more than 1,100 Bay Area Muslims, Bazian told the audience that 60 percent of respondents had reported experiencing Islamaphobia at some point. “Many now see it as part of being Muslim,” he said.

Other findings reveal a highly engaged civic community with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying they had done volunteer work in the past year. That compares to just 20 percent for the general population.

There is also a high degree of ethnic and social diversity among Bay Area Muslims. Just under a third are of South Asian origin, followed by 23 percent Arab and 17 percent Afghan. Other groups include African Americans, Asians and Iranians. In terms of socio-economic status, South Asians represented the highest wage earners on average, while Afghans tended to see higher rates of poverty.

“The income gap is clear,” said Farid Senzai, who co-authored the study and described it as the “first glimpse of a community we have little data about.”

But as NAM Executive Director Sandy Close remarked, youth voices were largely absent. Wednesday’s forum was an effort to help fill that void, she explained, and to “explore a landscape that felt completely invisible.”

“I don’t like to be too religious,” said Ameer Hassan, a Yemeni American born and raised in Oakland, Calif. Dressed in a black bomber jacket and matching fedora, Hassan spoke about his experiences working in his parents’ liquor store and missing out on school sports in the process. Yemenis “were the first people to answer the call from Mecca … yet here we are selling liquor in Oakland. It pays the bills,” he shrugged.

Like Raza, 21-year-old Afghan American Abass Darab said as a child he observed Islamic religious rites, but added, “There was no substance or meaning behind it.” After high school, the Virginia native relocated to Berkeley, Calif. where he enrolled in Zaytuna College, the country’s first Muslim liberal arts school.

As Darab sees it, there are two major issues confronting young Muslim Americans: marriage and gender relations. Pointing to recent statistics that show divorce rates as high as 50 percent among Muslim families, he faults the rigid separation of the sexes as being partly to blame.

“We really don’t know each other,” he said, adding he’d like to see more co-ed institutions where Muslim men and women can meet while still “grounded in Islamic principles.”


Above: Veronica Hernandez of San Mateo (Right) said when she converted to Islam there were few people around to help her learn “how to be a Muslim.”

Other issues that came up in the day’s discussion included questions around gay rights and Islamic extremism.

Ahlaam Abdulgalil, part Yemeni and part Somali, recalled her experience joining the girls high school basketball team in her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The perception then was that most of the players were lesbian, and so her parents quickly pulled her from the team.

“I believe in love, always and all ways,” stressed Abdulgalil, adding however that in Islam “being gay is forbidden.”

Local journalist and public radio host Hana Baba said she sees extremism in gender rules. Baba, a native of Sudan, related an experience she had with her daughters, who came home quoting the teacher at a religious school they attended, who said “mothers love sons more than daughters,” and that “Muslims should never spend the night in a Jew or Christian’s home.” Baba promptly pulled her children out of the school.

For Dawood Yasin, coordinator of student life at Zaytuna College, these issues typify the challenge and opportunity that Muslim youth here face. Yasin, an African American convert, spent 10 years living and studying in the Middle East, including in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

“Separating culture from religion is of the utmost importance” for this generation, he said, explaining that in many Islamic societies practices that fall under the banner of religion are in fact rooted more in culture and are not found in scripture. “Being in the U.S. creates an incredible opportunity for these things not to happen here,” he noted.

Yasin also points to the growing institutionalization of Islam in the country, a theme picked up by Senzai, who said that the number of mosques in the Bay Area has grown from just three in 1985 to 84 today. “There are even organic mosques,” he said.

But despite the flourishing of these places of worship and the emergence of community groups like One Nation, Senzai said there is still “no broad vision” for the community as a whole, and that women in particular are proving to be the “site of confrontation” over what it means to be Muslim in America.

One of those women is Veronica Hernandez. A Bay Area native of Irish, Italian and Mexican heritage, Hernandez’ brother initially drew her to the religion. “I remember watching him pray,” she said. “I knew and felt there was great meaning in life … I’m still searching for that.”

But Hernandez, whose Filipino husband is also a convert, said when she became Muslim there was no one around to help answer the one driving question she and others in the community face: “Ok, how do I be a Muslim?”

The One Nation Bay Area Project — a collaboration between the Marin Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy — works to strengthen relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Visit their website to learn more about the project.

Cooking Up Something Special with Po’Boys Kitchen

by Molly Raynor

I remember the day that the idea for the play Po’Boys Kitchen was born. From behind my laptop I watched, smiling, as the RAW Talent (Richmond Artists with Talent) staff and students bounced ideas off each other for our next production. After reading through all the evaluations of our previous play, Te’s Harmony, we made a list of topics that audience members had asked us to address in future productions, including homelessness, drug abuse, the relationship between elders and youth, and the history of Richmond.

After several hours of brainstorming, head scratching, debating, and laughing hysterically, this group of young brilliant minds found a way to weave the various issues facing their community into one profound narrative. With Po’Boys Kitchen, we hoped to address the lived realities of low-income people of color in places like Richmond while connecting our present to our past – shedding light on the history, culture, food, music, and humor of this city.

RAW Talent’s Artistic Director, Donte Clark, said that growing up in North Richmond, he and everyone he knew spent a lot of time hanging around the Green Store, a corner store where they bought inexpensive food to appease their empty bellies. But they also filled up on stories, jokes, and lessons from the elders who spent time at the store, many of whom were homeless or addicted to drugs, but wise nonetheless. He took inspiration for the play from a dream he had about a homeless man who is written off as crazy, but who is able to see the world in a way that many others don’t understand.

After 23 Richmond youth showed up to audition, the RAW Talent staff and students came up with a full cast of characters based on people in their lives. These are the stories of the young people in RAW Talent and the stories of their parents and grandparents – all of the beauty and the ugly, the pride and the purpose, the flawed but not tragic, the evolving and not stagnant. We didn’t want to sugarcoat anything – under the leadership of Donte, the group wrote the play in the language that we hear every day, honoring the natural poetry of Richmond.

Po’Boys Kitchen aims to humanize those we most often overlook, to show how even if we’ve been raised to believe we are worthless, we can still learn to love ourselves and each other. We can create family and make healthier choices. We are the authors of our own lives.

No one in RAW Talent has a professional background in theater, so when we made the shift from poetry shows to plays a few years ago, we had no idea where we were headed or how we would get there. We just had a vision and a group of passionate, talented young Richmond artists. But that’s what I love most about this kind of art making. Instead of seeing our lack of formal training as a deficit, I see it as an opportunity for innovation.

Donte Clark

Donte Clark

One of the most powerful components of Donte’s process as a playwright and director is his youth-centered, grassroots approach to theater. With both of our plays, Donte has written the dialogue with feedback from the cast, and cast members have written their own monologues. He pushes each cast member to address issues within themselves through their characters. This kind of theater comes with many challenges, but it leads to true transformation within young people because their experiences and words lay the foundation for the script. They are deeply invested in the entire process.

From start to finish, Po’Boys Kitchen was a collective effort. We are constantly humbled by the amount of support and love we have received, from funding to rehearsal spaces to tech support to the costumes to the set – folks volunteered their time, energy, and skills to help with every aspect of the show. Po’Boys Kitchen was a labor of love that depended on so many people, including the audience. This play was about the power of the community to come together, to eat, to laugh, to grow, and to heal.

Molly Raynor is the program director of RAW Talent.  •


Letter to the Youth, From Prison

by Asani Shakur

Editor’s Note: Asani Shakur, from Richmond, spent four years in prison. He wrote this letter to the youth while incarcerated.

Dear young kings and queens,

You do not know me personally, but you know me by way of a hood movie character or better yet, through the eyes of your favorite rapper.  Of what they speak, I have lived.

I am currently writing you from a federal prison cell — because I care about you and your future. I’m not sure what you may have been told about prison life, but allow me to provide you with some facts about this caged world:

You are told when to sleep, what and when to eat, what your occupation behind bars will be (which is worth roughly 10 cents per hour on average), and you wear the same clothing for the duration of your prison term. The hurtful part is being locked away from your family and loved ones. Envision yourself not being able to hold, hug, or kiss them — all you have to hold are pictures. The guards (not all, but many) will speak to you in any manner they feel or see fit. The most degrading part is having to strip off all your clothing so your naked body can be examined and searched. You must bend over, lifting and holding your private parts, in the presence of other men. Now tell me, does this sound like an environment you want to be in?

To my young kings, trust me when I say that street life — be it the drugs, pimpin’, murder or jackin’ game, is nothing more than carnage itself. It is a self-destructive life because you either die at a young age or go to prison — which is like death — because your so-called “ride or die” partners soon forget about you when you’re gone. You will be reduced to a memory, like when you did or said this or that. You soon realize that you’re doing your time by yourself. The outside world is still moving, while yours is at a standstill. Life is a game and we all go through different stages, but the question I ask you is: are you setting yourself up to win or lose?

If you find that you have failed to create a successful life, do not despair. Seek out other ways to reach that goal. I once read that a man or woman is great not because he or she hasn’t failed but because failure hasn’t stopped them. Booker T. Washington said, “Start where you are with what you have, knowing that what you have is plenty enough.” We too often think of ourselves in terms of what we can’t do, rather then what we can do. There is no height to your ability to think. Your thoughts manifest into actions, so direct them towards where you want to be. The mind is a tool more powerful then any AK-47 or any gun you can think of.

I must stress this one last thing, young king. We have got to stop making babies if we’re not willing to be there for our babies. You see, it’s not fair to that little boy or girl. They didn’t ask to be here without a father. Too many of us know how it feels to grow up without our dads, so why keep that going? We have to be there for our kids and when I say, “be there,” I don’t just meaning paying for diapers, childcare, or Jordan’s for our child. We need to seek vision for our kids, provide positive guidance and pass down information and wisdom that we have learned along the way. Our kids are our spitting image but it’s the image they see from us that will have an effect on how their life will materialize. Let us be conscious of this and check our own image. If we are not ready to take on such a task but still choose to indulge in sex, then use condoms.

To my young queens, you must know your own worth. You are royalty and should hold no price because your value is priceless. I used to use my reputation, status, and image to scheme on women for whatever agenda I had going. I look around this prison at my fellow inmates, as well as myself, and see how while us men are in here our kids have been left by us for you to take care of alone and yet you still accept our phone calls, you still send us money on our books, you still make time and find a way to come visit us and send pictures. The essence of a woman is beautiful. But notice how when I speak of your beauty I didn’t refer to your physical make-up and body shape. While certain things may make you attractive it doesn’t make you beautiful. Beautiful comes from within. I urge you to have that self-confidence and seek that beauty that lies within you. Don’t allow the indoctrination through the media, music, and cosmetic entities to define for you what beauty is, causing you to question and become insecure with how God made you.

I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know, I’m more than willing to share in hopes that you share with me, so we can build together. There is misinformation out there about who we are, and if we don’t have honest conversations with ourselves and with one another, we will feed into the misconceptions.

Our great ancestor, brother Bob Marley, said, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” The Most High has blessed me with a second chance, and for that I give thanks, because I could have been put away much longer. So with my second chance I intend to be that father I spoke of to my two-year-old son, make the most out of my life in a positive way, and lead by example for others. I’m still growing, but I realize that everything I have been through was nothing more then the ingredients that The Most High used to make me into the person I’m sure to become.

New Downtown Mural to Send Message of Nonviolence

RP Editors

Downtown Richmond is about to get a lot more colorful.  Local artist, Richard Muro Salazar, has broken ground on a huge mural project that will cover the walls of a currently abandoned building on the corner of McDonald Ave and Harbour Way. More than a beautification effort, the Alive & Free Richmond mural will communicate an idea: that there is nothing more valuable than human life.

Alive & Free Richmond is a partnership between The California Endowment, the Healthy Richmond Hub, City of Richmond, Omega Boys Club, Street Soldiers Radio, and Richmond Pulse. With the mural, the partnership hopes to create a community experience and a lasting piece of public artwork that promotes nonviolence and a spirit of collaboration.

1978876_10152284950509201_549110641_nSalazar, 28, was selected as the lead artist based on his work at Elm Playlot, also known as Pogo Park in the Iron Triangle.

“My vision for the mural was to promote the ‘rules for living’ and to truly portray what’s going on right here in Richmond… so people can relate to the message,” he said.

Andre Aikins, the Operations Manager at Alive & Free Richmond, helped move the project forward from its inception. “It’s the promotion of healthy lifestyles in pictorial form,” said Aikins. “It depicts an ‘alive and free’ City of Richmond that believes in ending gun violence and risky behaviors that lead to incarceration and death.”

Aikins met early on with Amanda Elliot of Richmond Main Street, a community-based non-profit that supports restoration of the city’s historic buildings, about doing the mural in the Main Street area of downtown.  The mural idea, said Elliot, fit well into the mission of her organization.

“We believe that arts and cultural mediums play a vital role in active urban community life,” she said. “Besides illustrating a community’s cultural diversity, traditions and history, the arts attract both residents and visitors, which in turn increase business opportunities and economic development. We see art as an important revitalization tool and use it to expand our community engagement efforts.”

Elliot then referred Aikins to Michelle Seville of the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission to help secure the permissions and find a location.

“We all agreed that the Harbour and MacDonald intersection would be [the best] location to promote the message and [contribute to] the Main Street revitalization,” recalled Aikins. “It was partnership and a collective conversation that made this project happen.”

Salazar then applied for and received one of eleven $3,000 public art grants from the city’s Arts and Culture Commission to expand on the mural idea.

“Positive images evoke positive thoughts,” said Elliot. “The Alive and Free mural will promote their philosophy to keep young people safe and free through imagery by one of our most talented local artists.”

Michelle Seville of the Arts and Culture Commission agrees.

“This project was selected because of its powerful message to youth about how to stay ‘alive and free’ in today’s challenging urban environment. That message will be interpreted by the artist… and will hopefully have a positive impact.  The project will speak to youth about positive actions that they can take to ensure their own survival, and to live with integrity in the community. It is about staying out of jail and respecting yourself.”

Community engagement is part of the project strategy, and volunteers have already been coming to the mural site to help Salazar with the massive effort. Even passers-by have taken notice and decided to get involved.

“Sometimes they (volunteers) get some work done and sometimes… I have to fix it,” said Salazar with a chuckle. “But I definitely want more help.”

Salazar anticipates the entire process should take about a month to complete, and a dedication ceremony is already scheduled to take place on May 8 from 4-7pm at Community Green Space Park on Harbour Way and Macdonald Ave., directly across from the new mural. The event will give the public a chance to meet the artist and celebrate the mural with live music, food stands, and local art vendors.

To participate in the painting of the mural contact Richard Muro Salazar at richard@pogopark.org.

Exploring the Science of Skateboarding

Story • Chanelle Ignant | Photos • David Meza

The skate park at Richmond’s Nicholl Park became a physics classroom on a Wednesday in March, when an event called “The Science of Skateboard Physics” introduced local teens and young adults to the physics principles guiding the way they ride.

Hosted by the Teen Services Branch of the Richmond Public Library and the Richmond Recreation Department, the program attracted skaters of various ages and levels of experience.

Angela Cox, the event’s organizer and the Richmond Library’s teen librarian, says she hoped to help young skateboarders see the connection between science and their sport.

“A lot of times people think that physics is a course that is abstract, that has absolutely nothing to do with their lives,” she says. “But a lot of [the youth] are skateboarders and really want to learn how to perfect their techniques and do more difficult kinds of tricks.”

“If they know the principles of what allows them to balance, what allows them to do a certain spin or a certain move, then that’s physics. And there’s a connection between science and what they love to do,” she says.

While Cox handed out sports drinks and energy bars, over 50 attendees checked out the event’s main attraction: the Exploratorium’s mobile skate exhibit, on loan from the San Francisco-based museum. Inside, participants found their center of gravity while balancing on mock skateboards, and tested the speed and durability of skateboard wheels of varying widths.

Rider safety was also highlighted. Local skate instructor Ali Karayel led demonstrations on how to fall properly while riding and how to avoid major injuries.

Josue Hernandez, 22, says the event’s turnout is evidence of a growing skate culture in Richmond. “I would love to see this more often,” he said.

“I think it’s cool for the kids to know that people care about what they’re interested in,” said Jenea Brisby, who attended the event with her son.

Brisby had seen the mobile skate exhibit in San Francisco and was glad to see it brought to Richmond’s youth. “We shouldn’t have to go to San Francisco to enjoy things like this,” she said.

Major Jones, 22, has been skating for thirteen years and says he has considered the science behind the sport before, but was interested in learning more from the exhibit and hopes that events like this will spread awareness of the skate community in Richmond.

“I think skateboarders would make great scientists,” he said.

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