North Richmond Has Always Been Different







Commentary, Donté Clark

The conversation about annexing North Richmond has many residents divided. I’ve heard about the benefits of North Richmond being able to receive city services, and I have also considered the importance of North Richmond maintaining its autonomy. I understand both sides of the debate and, in truth, I agree with both arguments. In short, I am conflicted.

To include North Richmond in the city budget means that more money from the city would go toward development, housing, and neighborhood programs of North Richmond. This has been a need neglected by the county.

However, being included in city’s politics is no guarantee that the folks who live there now will decide on the future of North Richmond once the money comes in. Annexation will likely lead to gentrification, and the residents who wanted to be part of Richmond may find themselves unable to afford it.

I grew up in Richmond, but North Richmond is my home.

My first days out of my mother’s womb were underneath my granny’s roof off of 6th and Market. What I grew to understand about North Richmond was that it has always been a place separate and strong from any part of the Richmond community. We speak different. Our understanding of life is different. We are a soulful people.

Our community has been left out and taken advantage of. This frustrates me. Here again I see a poor community of color caught between being included or excluded from a society. Either way, if it is not in loving hands, North Richmond faces a challenging future. On one side is gentrification, where the people who live there now won’t be around to see the benefits. On the other side, North Richmond remains neglected.

What once was a predominantly black neighborhood, pushed aside by city and county political affairs, North Richmond is no different than any other black community in America.

Whether annexed or unincorporated, we North Richmond residents have historically been ignored by city, state and federal governments, which left us to fend for ourselves. If there is some way to maintain our independence and develop, I’m all for it.  

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