Seeing Gardens in the Blight

Photo Essay, Luis Cubas

Richmond is a city plagued with blight. While some areas are revitalized, too many lots are left empty throughout neighborhoods—standing out like gaps in a crooked smile.

While out on a walk down California Avenue, in the North and East neighborhood near Richmond High School, I passed three large lots in just a few blocks. They looked like they’d gone untouched for years; covered with weeds, garbage and old appliances.

Looking at them, I wondered, “What would happen if these lots were transformed into community gardens?”

Tim Higares, a code enforcement manager in Richmond, said the number of vacant lots is in the hundreds, and growing. But, he said there’s hope in the blight.

He cited the new community garden at Harbor 8 Park on the Richmond Greenway and the ongoing Mathieu Court greening project in the Iron Triangle as examples of efforts to beautify vacant, dilapidated areas.

“The city is in support of anything that will improve or stabilize the community,” he said.

“We would much rather see a beautiful green community garden than a ugly lot that’s full of trash and debris.”

Already some cities, and the state, have taken moves to support the idea of using vacant lots for growing food.

Last November the Oakland City Council approved changes to the city’s agricultural regulations to allow gardeners to grow vegetables on vacant lots and sell without a permit, as long as they receive permission from the property owner. And in 2013, California passed the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones, which gave private landowners a financial reason to consider turning their vacant lots into a garden oasis: a lower property tax rate for those who allow their land to be leased for urban agricultural for at least five years. Unfortunately this new law isn’t applicable in Richmond because it applies only in urban areas with a population of at least 250,000 people—Richmond has around 110,000 residents.

Nevertheless, I would like to see Richmond’s vacant lots transformed this year. By allowing these spaces to be used for gardening, the community of Richmond could benefit with fresh vegetables, and an improved landscape.

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The College Myth: Why Most Students Need More Than Four Years

by Joanna Pulido

The teacher smiled and held a hat as a line of about a dozen students looked at each other nervously. Inside the hat were small pieces of paper with each student’s name. Luck would determine who would be part of the class, and who would have to continue the search.

Those of us already enrolled in the class waited quietly, watching the smiles and frowns as lucky students moved closer to graduation, and others possibly further. In my four and a half years at San Francisco State University, I saw this scenario play out year after year. Some teachers tried to help us by taking into consideration the number of credits students needed, or by adding more students to the class than the limit stipulated — but often times getting into a class just felt like a matter of luck.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to SFSU, in many universities across California it’s difficult for students to graduate on time because of the space constraints in required classes, tuition costs, credits lost when transferring schools and generally not enough courses offered. And, a new study shows that the commonly held goal of graduating within four-years is unattainable for a growing number of students.

Four-Year Myth, a report from the national nonprofit, Complete College America, declares that a 4-year degree has become a myth in American higher education. The study finds that the majority of full-time American college students do not graduate on time, costing them thousands of dollars in extra college-related expenses.

Policy experts who analyzed the statistics believe a more realistic benchmark for graduation is six years for a bachelor’s degree and three years for a “two-year” certificate.

While in college I heard numerous friends and students debate whether higher education is worth the debt. It’s difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook with increasing tuition costs, long commutes and a bleak job market for graduates.

Fellow students frequently bowed to the pressure of not wanting to fall too deep into debt and would work part-time or full-time while in school, which usually meant extending their time in school. Not a great tradeoff.

Ideally, students would be able to make classes fit into the demands of the rest of their lives. As is, it works the other way around. Students are given a day and time to register for classes depending on a number of variables: what year of school they’re in, whether they’re athletes or in a special program because of disabilities or income level. Often, popular classes—and even those needed for graduation—fill up fast. Imagine being given a day and time to register only to discover that the classes you need are already full, with a full wait list too. This is the frustrating reality for many students.

We are told that education is the way to success and better lives, but for many it becomes a stressful cycle and may not guarantee anything more than years of debt and an unfinished dream.

As a solution, Complete College America suggests a more structured higher education delivery method, called Guided Pathways to Success (GPS), which would provide students with a direct route to graduation. Utilizing GPS, majors are organized into a semester-by-semester set of courses that lead to on time graduation.

My first two and half years at SFSU, I played for the women’s soccer team, which helped me obtain priority registration, and due to my low income background I was part of the EOP (Educational Opportunity Program), which also offered priority registration. Both of these programs also provided tutoring, counseling, money for books and guidance. To stay in these programs I had to keep a 2.0 GPA and complete 12 units each semester, which kept me on track for graduation.

Ultimately, these structured programs helped me complete classes, save money, and provided moral support that made me feel more confident in my college experience. If in practice, GPS functions the way the programs I was part of did, it may very well prove to be the answer to the increasing time and costs of college.

Down a Player: How a High School Coach and Basketball Team is Carrying on in the Wake of a Homicide

News Feature, Chanelle Ignant

 

At a Friday night basketball game in late November, Richmond High School’s boys basketball coach, Robert Collins, paced the sidelines, yelling instructions to his team.

With less than 30 seconds left, and only a two-point lead over the Mount Diablo Devils, Collins had one command for his team.

“Don’t foul the shooter! Don’t foul the shooter,” he said, his booming voice carrying throughout the gym.

The Devils tied the game at 73 with 12 seconds to go.

The pressure was on for the Oilers. With the ball in play, they managed to make it across half court, but fumbled the ball near their baseline.

With five seconds left, senior Sahr Kelly recovered the ball and took a difficult shot from underneath the basket.

The buzzer sounded. Kelly’s shot went in, and the Oilers were victorious.

As the team rushed from the bench, surrounding Kelly in celebration, they left behind a jersey laid out on one of the chairs. It was emblazoned with the number 4—a memorial to the team’s fallen player, Rodney Frazier Jr., who was killed out front of his North Richmond home in November.

Collins, now sobbing, walked through the post-game ritual of handshakes and saying “good game” to the other team.

His love of the game, of his players and of Richmond’s program was evident. The sense of loss for a player absent that Friday night was palpable.

“This game was special,” he said on the way to the bus. “That was so special.”

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Frazier, the 16-year-old junior guard for the Oilers who was gunned down on November 7, Collins said he and the team have been riding an emotional roller coaster.

“We’re ready for some normalcy again,” said the veteran coach of 18 years.

IMG_9985Collins gained media attention in recent weeks after co-organizing a rally for Frazier at Richmond City Hall where hundreds of players, community members and leaders gathered to honor Frazier and call for change.

His passion, often witnessed on the sideline at games, turns to indignation whenever he speaks of what happened to Frazier.

“Why did they have to take someone out who was just on the brink of becoming someone unbelievably special in life?” Collins asked. “Why did that have to happen? I’m never going to get the answer,” he said. “No one is.”

Collins began coaching at Richmond High in 2002, replacing the famed Coach Ken Carter. He left in 2006 to coach at Amador Valley High, but resigned after two years when parents complained about his intense coaching style.

He returned to Richmond as a physical education teacher in 2008 and became coach once more, fulfilling his wish to “be a part of kids lives.”

“I’m older and a lot wiser and a part of a school community now, which is what I always wanted to be,” Collins said.

Collins admits that the challenges are great for Richmond High students.

“It’s pretty heavy for these young people that see a lot of rocky stuff on a day to day occurrence,” he said. “I’m sensitive to it, but I will never understand it.”

He said basketball keeps the players going because it gives them a physical outlet for their pain and a common goal to work toward.

Despite the recent tragedy, he considers Richmond High his saving grace.

“I was never really part of a school community, until I got to Richmond,” he said.

IMG_9998And that community relies on him now. On Friday night, as his voice carried throughout the gym, the intensity that he says forced him out of a suburban school is what the Richmond players look up to.

“He gives these kids and this school and this program everything he has,” said Kellis Love, the Richmond junior varsity boy basketball coach. “He’s one of a kind.”

So far, Collins said, the team is playing “with the idea that we wish Rodney was here doing it with us.”

“It is what it is,” Collins said. “We’re going to have to get through it and go forward.”

Now on a two-game winning streak, the Oilers are gaining momentum. With Collins’ leadership from the sidelines, and Frazier’s memory pushing them to succeed, the boys of Richmond High will keep playing one game at a time.

 

Down a Player: How a High School Coach and Basketball Team is Carrying on in the Wake of a Homicide

News Feature, Chanelle Ignant

 

At a Friday night basketball game in late November, Richmond High School’s boys basketball coach, Robert Collins, paced the sidelines, yelling instructions to his team.

With less than 30 seconds left, and only a two-point lead over the Mount Diablo Devils, Collins had one command for his team.

“Don’t foul the shooter! Don’t foul the shooter,” he said, his booming voice carrying throughout the gym.

The Devils tied the game at 73 with 12 seconds to go.

The pressure was on for the Oilers. With the ball in play, they managed to make it across half court, but fumbled the ball near their baseline.

With five seconds left, senior Sahr Kelly recovered the ball and took a difficult shot from underneath the basket.

The buzzer sounded. Kelly’s shot went in, and the Oilers were victorious.

As the team rushed from the bench, surrounding Kelly in celebration, they left behind a jersey laid out on one of the chairs. It was emblazoned with the number 4—a memorial to the team’s fallen player, Rodney Frazier Jr., who was killed out front of his North Richmond home in November.

Collins, now sobbing, walked through the post-game ritual of handshakes and saying “good game” to the other team.

His love of the game, of his players and of Richmond’s program was evident. The sense of loss for a player absent that Friday night was palpable.

“This game was special,” he said on the way to the bus. “That was so special.”

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Frazier, the 16-year-old junior guard for the Oilers who was gunned down on November 7, Collins said he and the team have been riding an emotional roller coaster.

“We’re ready for some normalcy again,” said the veteran coach of 18 years.

IMG_9985Collins gained media attention in recent weeks after co-organizing a rally for Frazier at Richmond City Hall where hundreds of players, community members and leaders gathered to honor Frazier and call for change.

His passion, often witnessed on the sideline at games, turns to indignation whenever he speaks of what happened to Frazier.

“Why did they have to take someone out who was just on the brink of becoming someone unbelievably special in life?” Collins asked. “Why did that have to happen? I’m never going to get the answer,” he said. “No one is.”

Collins began coaching at Richmond High in 2002, replacing the famed Coach Ken Carter. He left in 2006 to coach at Amador Valley High, but resigned after two years when parents complained about his intense coaching style.

He returned to Richmond as a physical education teacher in 2008 and became coach once more, fulfilling his wish to “be a part of kids lives.”

“I’m older and a lot wiser and a part of a school community now, which is what I always wanted to be,” Collins said.

Collins admits that the challenges are great for Richmond High students.

“It’s pretty heavy for these young people that see a lot of rocky stuff on a day to day occurrence,” he said. “I’m sensitive to it, but I will never understand it.”

He said basketball keeps the players going because it gives them a physical outlet for their pain and a common goal to work toward.

Despite the recent tragedy, he considers Richmond High his saving grace.

“I was never really part of a school community, until I got to Richmond,” he said.

IMG_9998And that community relies on him now. On Friday night, as his voice carried throughout the gym, the intensity that he says forced him out of a suburban school is what the Richmond players look up to.

“He gives these kids and this school and this program everything he has,” said Kellis Love, the Richmond junior varsity boy basketball coach. “He’s one of a kind.”

So far, Collins said, the team is playing “with the idea that we wish Rodney was here doing it with us.”

“It is what it is,” Collins said. “We’re going to have to get through it and go forward.”

Now on a two-game winning streak, the Oilers are gaining momentum. With Collins’ leadership from the sidelines, and Frazier’s memory pushing them to succeed, the boys of Richmond High will keep playing one game at a time.

 

A Glimpse of the Globe

by Monet Boyd

 

I always wanted to travel the world, and this summer I got the chance.

It was my junior year at El Cerrito High School, and a friend nominated me for an ambassador position with Global Glimpse—a non-profit that provides life-changing global education to high school students. Global Glimpse partners with high schools throughout the San Francisco Bay area to provide opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to experience life-changing travel abroad.

The program is built around active community service, culture and leadership development. It empowers young people to become responsible global citizens and instills in them—or at least in me—a lifelong passion for community involvement and education.

After learning all I could about the program, I decided to apply. Then I waited to be accepted or rejected.

When I learned I was accepted my first emotion was fear, fear to be leaving Richmond and my family. But, as the trip grew closer, I became excited to experience something new. Plus, I knew that I was going to help people outside of Richmond.

imageOn June 9, I boarded a plane with 22 other student ambassadors and two leaders. We were off on a three-week long journey to Nicaragua. There was some comfort in the adventure because three of my close friends from El Cerrito High were also on the trip, and I prayed with my family before I left.

Waiting inside San Francisco International Airport, I was hit with waves of excitement, anxiety and nerves. Many of the folks I met there were from San Jose, Oakland and Pittsburg.  Little did I know that these people I was nervous to meet would soon become like family.

It was scorching when we touched down at the Managua airport in Nicaragua. Two Global Glimpse coordinators greeted us with gifts—a great start to any trip.

The first hostel we stayed in, in Mangua, was terrifying. It was infested with huge ants and spiders. We had an air conditioner in our room but it would cut off for hours during the night and we would sweat bullets until it came back on. Thankfully we didn’t stay there long.

Our official hostel was in Estelí, and it reminded me of home. The staff took care of us like family. They cooked for us, cleaned our rooms and even spent time with us in the common areas.

Estelí is a beautiful city with so much history. The landscape is breathtaking, not far from the city are mountains, waterfalls and forests.

While the city was gorgeous, it was the people I met who made the trip. For the most part, they were gracious and a pleasure to be around. They allowed me to practice my semi understandable Spanish in exchange for practicing their English.

Our trip was very packed; this wasn’t a vacation. Everyday we were busy working through simulations or lessons that would help us understand life as most people in the area knew it. We had to live on a dollar a day, learn about the politics and history of the region and take part in the community.

Many of the people I came across struggled to feed their families daily. As we became friends, I realized that despite having nearly nothing they barely complained. They were—for the most part—happy, and that put things into perspective in my own life.

Dona Francesca epitomized that spirit. Francesca lived in a dumpsite, where she gave birth to 25 kids, but 17 of them died from diarrhea and vomiting. In spite of her troubles, Francesca opened her home to us and had no problem sharing her story. People like her showed me how to be content. They carry joy and peace—which was remarkable to me. Their hardships don’t define them.

The most memorable moment on our three-week journey was executing the community action project. At Fabretto Elementary School we built two tables for children to eat on, and cleaned out the kitchen so the food wouldn’t be contaminated by flies and other bugs.

I was proud that my delegation and I were able to make a sustainable impact. It may seem common to us, but these kids didn’t have access to a table until we built it. I am most proud because Global Glimpse enabled us to address an actual need.

Overall, this trip changed me. It allowed me to meet humble and strong people, and showed me how the world is connected. When I came back and started looking at colleges, I made sure that the ones I applied for had a study abroad program—because I still want to travel the world.

Study: Trauma Follows Children Into Adulthood, Threat to Public Health in CA

News Report, Anna Challet | New America Media

Past experiences of childhood trauma are common among California adults, and those experiences correlate with harmful behaviors and chronic disease at a level that constitutes a “public health crisis,” according to a new study.

The report by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), a health organization that serves children and families in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point district, demonstrates that “the effects of early adversity on lifetime health are astounding,” according to CYW founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris.

The first of its kind, the study gathered data on how Californians are being affected by what the report refers to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), or traumatic experiences that have long-term effects on the brain and body. The experiences measured by the study include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; and household problems including divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, incarceration, and mental illness.

CYW found that over 60 percent of adults reported at least one adverse childhood experience, and one in six adults reported having four or more traumatic experiences.

The most commonly reported experience was emotional or verbal abuse, with 35 percent of adults saying they’d experienced that as children.

The pervasiveness of traumatic experiences was found to be “quite consistent across ethnicities,” according to Burke Harris. The percentage of adults reporting four or more traumatic experiences was similar among Whites and African Americans (16.4 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively), slightly higher among Hispanics (17.3 percent), and slightly lower among Asian Pacific Islanders (11.4 percent).

The report used four years’ worth of data from the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey on health-related behaviors conducted every year by the California Department of Public Health and led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The total sample size was nearly 28,000 individuals.

“The higher your dose of adversity, the more likely you are to have poor health outcomes,” said Burke Harris. For example, an individual reporting four or more traumatic experiences is over five times as likely to cope with depression as an adult. Those individuals are also more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or kidney disease, and more likely to have a stroke. They’re almost three times as likely to smoke, and over three times as likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

“That’s a challenge for some people to understand,” said Mary Lou Fulton, a senior program manager at The California Endowment, a private health foundation that was one of the report’s sponsors. “How is it that something that happened to you as a child can actually result in a health consequence 10 or 20 years down the road?” Fulton spoke at a summit on childhood trauma held in San Francisco by CYW in the days after the report’s release.

And the high-risk behaviors like smoking only account for about 50 percent of the increased health risks, Burke Harris explains. Poor health outcomes in individuals who had more traumatic experiences as children are also due to constant activation of the body’s stress response, “where the body releases stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. And when this happens with high frequency [it can become] a maladaptive chronic response in the body,” she said.

Burke Harris also noted that having more traumatic experiences as a child appears to correlate with limited access to health care as an adult. Someone with four or more adverse experiences is 50 percent more likely to lack health insurance as someone who’s had no adverse experiences.

Remembering Rodney

By Tania Pulido

photo copyRodney Frazier Jr. was 16 years-old, a teenager from North Richmond who loved basketball, his motorcycle, family and volunteering. On Fri., Nov. 7, his life was taken when he was shot dead in his front yard while trying to go home.

I had the gift of working with Rodney this year, during the Urban Tilth summer apprentice program. His smile is one I’ll never forget—or his curiosity and the way he’d ask a hundred and one questions.

At a memorial vigil held for him the week after his death, it was clear how many people felt the loss of Rodney. Hundreds of family, friends and community members gathered outside the Richmond Civic Center on a cloudy evening, they lit candles of love as night fell and the weather seemed to reflect the gloomy faces in the crowd.

“He was ambitious, he was sweet, he just wanted to joke and have fun,” Alaundria Evans, Rodney’s sister told me. She added that she would remember him as someone who tried to help anyone.

Althea Evans, Rodney’s older sister, recounted to me childhood memories that highlighted the man he was becoming, one who enjoyed the mechanical side of things—like fixing his bike. “When he was little he would throw away his toys and play with tools,” she said.

As a student at Richmond High, Rodney excelled at basketball. Rob Collins, Rodney’s coach was one of many who spoke to the crowd during the vigil.

“People say he was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Collins said his voice loud with passion and fury. “He was in the right place–at home!”

Rodney was shot at 18 times in front of his own home, where his friends and family witnessed him take his last breath.

photoIn the midst of the sadness and despair one speaker after the next talked about hope for a better tomorrow.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the community was igniting “lights of justice” because “justice must come or peace will not come.” So far police have not made any arrests and believe the killing was a random act of violence. Rodney was not involved in any gangs or drug activity.

For some of Rodney’s siblings the vigil left a huge imprint and a better understanding of the immense love people have for their brother. Ciaundria Hillard, another of Rodney’s older sisters said, “It was sad that everything had to happen, but it makes me feel better that so many people who love him in the community came together and shared kind words.”

“The way people came together, I want us to hold on to that and continue coming together and stop wasting lives,” she added.

As devastating as it is, violence like this is nothing new to us who grew up in Richmond. Within the last few weeks five teens were shot in the city of Richmond and North Richmond.

Althea had a message for the community too. “Hold your kids tight, keep them close to you,” she said, “Let them know that there is a better future.”

Q & A: Mike Parker on Changing the Nature of Politics in Richmond

Interview, Malcolm Marshall

Editor’s Note: Richmond Progressive Alliance Campaign Coordinator and one time Mayoral candidate, Mike Parker spoke to Richmond Pulse’s  Malcolm Marshall about the recent election, working with Mayor-elect Tom Butt and training new leaders in Richmond.

Richmond Pulse: RPA lost in the 2012 election but came back strong this year. What was the key to success this time? How much do you credit to Chevron’s missteps?

MP_RichmondWallMike Parker: There are many things that contributed to our victory. But I think the key reason that we won in Richmond, even while progressives lost across the country, was that this wasn’t just an election campaign. This was part of a ten year battle to change the nature of Richmond and politics in Richmond.

We had in place people who had developed roots in the community. We had in place people who had reputations so that when the hit pieces came out, we actually had already been door to door with many people talking to them.

The hit piece stuff does damage. It did damage to us here. We would have done much better without them. I don’t think that this is Chevron’s misstep. I think we won. I think we won because Richmond really is much better now than it was ten years ago and people recognize that, and because we built an organization in Richmond to act politically throughout the year, not just at election time, and to help make some of these programs a reality.

RP: As a campaign strategist, what was different this year compared to other recent elections? Are there messages that resonate in Richmond today that didn’t say six or eight years ago?

MP: Chevron’s role in the city was a big issue. Chevron only attacked the three RPA candidates, it did not attack Tom Butt and it didn’t attack Jael Myrick. It wanted to smash the RPA, and its supporters, and I think the reason it wanted to goes back to the political struggle over Chevron’s modernization project.

The project was an opportunity for Chevron and Richmond to see reduced pollution, not just the same levels. It was the opportunity to take steps for making production of oil greener. It was the opportunity for Chevron to work with the community and Chevron in all those places chose not to work with the community, but to do just the minimum necessary to comply with the law. And they didn’t like the fact that people sort of stood up and said, ‘No, we want something more.’

The other big issue facing the city was, and still is, Doctor’s Hospital. We fought the closing of the hospital from the very beginning—wanting to get help early on, when we still could, from the Chevron Community Benefits Agreement. And we continued working with the California Nurses Association to try to keep the pressure up and we’ve made some headway.

We haven’t solved it yet, but there are more people who are onboard with finding ways to save it, and it can be saved—if we get enough good leadership in this county to actually take a look at how to save it.

RP: Mayor Elect Tom Butt has often voted in alignment with RPA members on the City Council, but he is not an official RPA member. What expectations, and challenges, do you see moving forward in working with the new mayor?

MP: I think we’ll work together well. That doesn’t mean that we agree about everything.

One of the basic principles of the RPA is that we accept no corporate contributions. Tom doesn’t get much in corporate contributions, but he doesn’t accept that as a principle. We don’t accept candidates who accept corporate contributions, so that’s one of the areas we have a difference. We also have a difference with Tom on a number of policy questions. We have a difference with him about Doctors Hospital and the importance of it, about minimum wage.

On the other hand, Tom is also somebody who is very smart and understands that there has to be something done in Richmond to bring it together, and I think that Tom will work well with the RPA.

RP: Only 17,000 people voted in this last election. How do you expand the circle of the RPA to bring in more residents, specifically more young people?

MP: That’s the $64.00 question. We recognize that part of the problem with a volunteer organization is that it needs volunteers and it needs people who will work. Well, that means that the main people who can do that kind of work consistently are retired people. People who are working full time, who have families, they can’t put in days and days and days of the consistent work that was necessary to do this.

This wasn’t just a spurt of activity at election time; this was consistent activity every day for the past, well, pretty much the past ten years. I don’t want to exaggerate it, but, you know, we try to maintain an open office, we were involved in all kinds of campaigns, helped various projects get going. All those things take work and it’s hard to get young people to basically put that kind of time into it. But we have to figure out a way to do that.

We have to figure out a way in particular to train new leadership, people to come onto the city council, people to lead in the community–because we want a community that’s active.

The best things that have happened in Richmond have happened because the elected officials have worked with active parts of the community to accomplish things.

RP: You said throughout the campaign that this was about Chevron trying to retake control of the city council. Then we saw that Chevron was willing to spend $3 million to get influence. What lessons can be learned from this experience that the community should build on moving forward?

MP: We built something that looks to residents being involved politically, rather than simply coming out to vote, and in doing that we created a little bit different culture in Richmond around how politics can be run.

I think we pretty much established that we were able to actually go out and make our case about what we stood for, and the people who went to vote agreed with us.

Chevron, by putting all this money into politics keeps raising the bar on what it takes to get active in politics and to do something. Right now it’s not possible, without having $100,000, to be part of a campaign. There are only a few ways you get $100,000. You either get Chevron’s backing, you have the backing of some other powerful institutions—the realtors or maybe the building trades—or you come together in some group as we did. We combined the campaigns, so between the campaigns all together we were able to raise probably $150,000. But, that was a lot of people coming together.

I have nothing against us raising $100,000 from small contributions because it’s lots of people coming together and it’s a lot different than coming into this game and basically owing your allegiance to whatever corporation is willing to sponsor you.

Warriors Give Nystrom Community a New Place to Play

Story and Photos by Chanelle Ignant

Lenora Walker grew up playing basketball near Martin Luther King Park in Richmond. But when the Martin Luther King Community Center closed a few years ago, the park’s run down outdoor courts became her only option.

“All we had left were the courts here that had cracks [and] the backboards were small and old,” Walker recalled. “We didn’t have nowhere else to go around here that’s not in someone else’s neighborhood.”

On Oct. 20, Walker and over a hundred other community members attended the unveiling of two radically different courts in their backyard.

IMG_9997The Mitch Richmond Basketball Courts, named for the Basketball Hall of famer—and former Golden State Warriors great—Mitch Richmond, debuted with the help of the Warriors Foundation, Good Tidings Foundation, the California Endowment and Healthy Richmond.

Featuring four new NBA plexiglass hoop systems and a 14,000 square foot all-weather acrylic playing surface, the renovations came about through the work of the Nystrom United Revitalization Effort (NURVE), an initiative launched in 2002 to address the needs of the Nystrom neighborhood. The renovated basketball courts completed the effort to revitalize MLK Park. The courts are next to the Oakland Raiders themed football field, completed in 2011, and the Oakland A’s baseball field—opened earlier this year.

“What the Warriors did here was just phenomenal,” Jim Becker of Richmond Community Foundation said.

After an Oakland Raiders football field’s renovation and an Oakland A’s baseball field done earlier this year, Becker reached out to Jose Gordon, Executive Director of the Warriors Foundation with the idea of involving the Warriors in the rebuild of the outdoor basketball court. Gordon loved the idea.

According to Becker it’s the only instance in the country where all three major sports teams have helped build a neighborhood park.

“Playing sports was my everything,” said Mitch Richmond during the unveiling ceremony. On the court is where he said he learned the value of teamwork and dedication.

Following the ceremony the Warriors Foundation led a basketball clinic with students between the ages of 10 and 12 from Richmond College Preparatory and the Police Activities League.

Christina Baronian, a sixth grade teacher at Richmond College Prep, said that with the limited space at her school the new court offers a place for her students to go after school.

“This park was always a dangerous park to go,” Baronian said. “A lot of their parents wouldn’t let them come here because it was so dangerous. And now that they’ve fixed up this court and the other field my students are going to be able to come here now, which they’re really excited about.”

Lynette Walker, who lives nearby came to the event and said she hopes the refurbished courts will attract more players.

“For years we would come out here and play and no one would be out here,” she said. “Now that they fixed it up I really think that a lot of people will be encouraged to come back and play.”

NURVE team member Janie Holland said the park involved more than just outsiders.

“We would like for the community to take ownership of this,” Holland said. “We want them to feel like this is ours. We all did this together.”

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More Unity, Less Division

Commentary, Asani Shakur

 

Recently, I came across some of the rhetoric that has taken place in the Richmond City Council.

I saw on Youtube that Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles was chastised and made a mockery of for wearing an African head wrap at one of the city council meetings. What bothered my heart was that some of the sardonic remarks came from other African brothers.

A brother and minister, Wesley Ellis, is seen in the video recording of that night placing a handbag on top of his head as a joke towards Beckles’ African head wrap. Then to add insult to injury Mr. Ellis is greeted by Richmond resident Mark Wassberg with laughter and a high-five.

I don’t expect a person like Wassberg to embrace our African culture. In that same video he is recorded saying to Beckles, “This is what happens Beckles when you wear that tight funny hat around your head, your brain cells get blocked.” Other times he’s been quoted as saying to Beckles (who is openly gay), “Gays have no morality…You’re filth, you’re dirt.”

What stood out for me was that nobody stood up for this sister.

Politics aside, whether you support her political views or not, whether you like her personally, or not, we should not allow anyone to poke fun of our culture.

It was a poor example of leadership and a disgraceful representation of Richmond for the rest of the world to bare witness to. I placed it on par with the stupidity of some of these reality shows on television, with all the drama. I thought “How could people in leadership positions who are to make decisions for the citizens of Richmond, possibly have the city’s best interest at heart while displaying loathing characteristics? How did they allow it to get so ugly that the media catches wind of it?”

Beckles is often critisized by some in Richmond for not being “really black.” In an SF Gate article council member Corky Boozé is quoted as saying  “she says she’s a black Latina. Well, you’re either African American or you’re not.”

The question I found myself thinking about after reading the article was, “What separates us who are of African decent, whether we live in United States, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, Haiti, Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or other Caribbean islands?” I’ll tell you: A boat trip.

Not all of our ancestors were dropped off here in the New World (United States). The middle passage consisted of a three-legged system known as the “triangular trade.” The triangular trade started from Europe as its first leg and on to Africa as its second leg where they kidnapped people and forced them onto a ship before dropping them off to the America’s—leg three, a life of enslavement.

Aside from the boat trip, where our dichotomy lies, is language, which creates further divides us.

An African in the United States speaks English, an African in Cuba speaks Spanish and an African in Brazil speaks Portuguese. The reason is simple—colonization.

Africans here speak English because it was the British who controlled the slave economy in the United States. The same goes for Africans who speak Spanish as a native tongue. It’s because their overseer was from Spain, and through colonization, the native African tongue (language) was stripped from us. As well as our names, culture and the like. The Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch Empire, Spain, and so on, all had their hands in the African slave trade.

I point this out so one won’t be fooled by someone else’s accusations of some one not being “Black” because they come from one of the island’s and may identify themselves as “Afro-Latin.” That identification is no different from someone saying I am “African-American” because they were raised here in America.

Beckles did not need to expound on why she wore an African head wrap (it was in solidarity of the 200 Nigerian girls that were kidnapped). We should not have to feel the need to explain to anyone why we may wear something that identifies with our African culture.

We of African decent should not be ashamed of our history and culture. We should hold our Maafa (Kiswahili for African Holocaust) sacred.

Until we educate ourselves, and our children, by reconditioning the mind, we will continue to suffer from “divide and conquer” syndrome.