Mayor of Richmond, CA Gayle McLaughlin visited San Quentin’s Richmond Project and put her words into action by stressing her slogan,“Building a Better Richmond Together.”
The mayor of Richmond sat down on July 19 in what can be best described as a circle of hope for the city of Richmond. The mayor met with the men of the Richmond Project along with several other concerned community activists.
Also in attendance were Marylyn Langlois, Kim McDonald, outside supporter from the Office of Neighborhood Safety; Correctional Counselor C. Grant, staff sponsor for the Richmond Project, and Kathleen Jackson, a volunteer sponsor for the “T.R.U.S.T. Fellows” (Teaching Responsibilities Utilizing Social Training). T.R.U.S.T. Fellows sponsors the Richmond Project at San Quentin. In addition, other active supporters who were not present but are interested in solving the issues plaguing Richmond are The Neighborhood House of North Richmond (NHNR) and DeVon Boggan Director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety along with Kelli Rice and Sam Vaughn.
The mayor jumped right into the fray when the question approached topics concerning the state of Richmond’s violence among its community members.
“It is not just in Richmond, it is all over. When you look around 13 and 14 year-olds are dying everywhere,” said the mayor.
Inmate Michael Harris, an honorary member of the Richmond program, said, “It’s been a learning process working with the T.R.U.S.T Fellows and the Richmond Project. In terms of all the work that needs to be done back out in the community.”
According to Inmate James Houston, Facilitator in the Richmond Project, “The program started in 2006. Its mission and goals are to come up with ideas to eradicate the violence that permeates Richmond’s city neighborhoods. Included in that is the aim to develop economic stability and social skills for inmates who wish to have a successful re-entry back into society.”
This could include more of a close working relationship with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Richmond Project’s class size is between 25 to 30 people, and it meets the last three Monday nights of the month.
“For her to come inside this place and talk to all of us, it shows her true commitment for change in the city of Richmond,” said James Houston, an inmate of San Quentin and Chairman of the Richmond Project
The mayor also said that she would talk to her staff members and Lt. Sam Robinson, San Quentin’s Public information Officer (PIO) about establishing a Richmond Project Program in the community of Richmond.
“I think that the mayor is the real deal. Watching her engage with the men of Richmond was a unique opportunity for me to see a person that’s involved in politics engage from the human perspective,” Harris said. “As opposed to somebody that is only preoccupied with what resides only on the surface. Mayor McLaughlin is a person who puts her words into action.”
A defender of victims of violent crime, she spoke out clearly against the rape of a Richmond High School student, and the numerous shootings, which included a shooting into a church.
McLaughlin was elected to her first term as Mayor of the city of Richmond in November 2006 and is seeking re-election this November. She has worked closely with the Police Chief and the Office of Neighborhood Safety looking at continuous stratagems to reduce violence in the city, specifically in the areas considered high traffic hot zones.
Success with Budgets
As mayor of Richmond, McLaughlin signed three consecutive budgets that keep and expand city services and increased the number of police officers on duty. Violent crimes and property crimes, still very serious problems in Richmond, have shown significant declining trends during her tenure.
With her vision of being thoroughly involved with the heartbeat of Richmond, her headquarters, in combination with other local groups sponsors the Healing Circles of Hope, a training program for facilitators. Their plan is to conduct support groups for Richmond families that have lost friends and loved ones to violence.
“For a top official to come in here and meet with men considered enemies to the community is big,” Houston, said. “Giving her time on these points and asking for our help to curb the problems of violence and find a solution is significant and very important.”
A project close to her was the creation of the Richmond City Youth Corps that provides part-time year round jobs for unemployed youth anxious to learn skills, earn salaries, and learn trades.
She voted against the failed Measure Q, which mandated an increase in sales taxes in Richmond. In a demonstration of solidarity, McLaughlin pulled the entire City Council together to authorize and require environmental cleanup oversight for the toxic Zeneca and UC Field Station sites in Richmond’s southeastern shoreline.
Mayor McLaughlin has been touted as a hands-on community activist. She co-founded the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) in 2003. This forum included Democrats, Independents and Greens all uniting for the progressive ideals to build a healthier robust Richmond. She has also worked with the RPA on multiple environmental health issues, human and civil rights and proper living wage matters.
Been Very Supportive
Nythell Collins, Vice Chairman of San Quentin’s Richmond Project and a Facilitator, said the mayor has been very supportive of the process of change.
“For her to include us, the men in prison, in this process is a very refreshing and positive thing.”
In an effort to send a positive message, several men from inside the walls of San Quentin came together from different parts of Richmond for a day of softball, unity, brotherhood and faith in their belief that stopping the crime and violence can begin here.
“I’m from East Palo Alto and we’ve got problems out there as well,” said Dexter Coleman. We’ve got people of color warring against people of color. But it’s good to know that we have men who are putting aside their differences and coming together.”
Standing and cheering his fellow teammates, Nate Collins said, “We’re having a great baseball game showing a sense of community and really getting along. This is big. There are guys from Richmond who want to promote peace; we want a safe and positive community.”
As shouts of “You’re out” and “Catch the ball” rang out in the ball park, others gave their take on this important event. “When we were all younger we played sports together and we went on trips together,” said Sean Patton. “You’ve got men here from North, South and Central Richmond. We all grew up in church playing together; it’s great to be doing this.”
It’s Not Impossible
Barry Dugar, who has lived in Richmond for 35 years and coached some the men he was watching play, said, “I caught my first case in 2004. I coached Richmond baseball, football and basketball out in Richmond and I’ve known some of these men since they were five and six years old. It’s not impossible for us to be good and responsible men.”
“Richmond can be a model for other cities to turn things around” McLaughlin said. “Yes ,it’s a small city but it still can be a model for bigger cities.”
Cecily McMahan, production coordinator for KCRT television, is working with the men of the Richmond Project, in conjunction with the San Quentin News/Media Department to create multiple Public Service Announcements to be viewed out in the community.