A new weekly softball game in Nichol Park is shaking up neighborhood boundaries with a radical idea: everyone -- from every part of Richmond -- is invited to play and hang out in the same place without fear of cross-town violence.
“My inbox is flooded with messages from guys in different parts of town,” explains Rodney Alamo Brown, co-organizer of the Soulful Softball Sundays event.
“They say to me, ‘Rodney, I really want to come, but guys from the other side of town are trippin’ and I don’t want to be a sitting duck and get ambushed’,” Brown says.
Soulful Softball Sundays was started by Brown and Antoine Cloird of Men and Women of Purpose to resolve exactly this sort of conflict. What appears at first to be a family-friendly softball game in a park is actually more of a one-stop-shop for community healing.
“How do we lead the horse to the water? That’s what we had to figure out,” Brown explains. “How do you get people to the mental health services they need? How do you peel back the layers of fear people have about leaving their own neighborhood? We said, ‘Let’s take people back to when they were eight-years-old and they had no worries in the world.’ These games are like a reunion of sorts.”
When Brown and Cloird grew up in Richmond, Nichol Park was the spot to play baseball in the city. The two are trying to recreate the innocent playground of their youth, and they invite all of Richmond to join in.
“We’re not handing out pamphlets, we’re just talking with people,” Cloird explains. The Men and Women of Purpose founder can typically be found behind a plume of BBQ-seasoned smoke at the grill or behind the DJ set. “I call myself DJ One-Track,” Cloird jokes.
Cloird and Brown know that they’re on to something good — it’s just a matter of whether they can keep it up.
“I see people — younger guys, mostly — coming around the games, scouting it out,” Brown explains. “If someone gets shot, or if someone dies — it’ll be exactly what they thought it was going to be,” Brown says with frustration.
Expecting violence at the games misses the point, Brown says. “Misinformed people misinform people,” the organizer explains. “They don’t know who we are or what we’re doing — we’re gonna change that.”
The games have been going on for less than a month, but already the organizers are gathering sponsors.
“It’s nothing monetary, but it helps,” Cloird explains. “Andrea Bailey from Chevron gave us some Richmond Proud shirts that we’re handing out to the first 20 people who arrive, some people gave us meat to cook, and many people in the community are coming out with side dishes to share.”
Soulful Softball Sundays takes place every Sunday between 2 pm and 6 pm at Nichol Park, and everyone is welcome.
SOULFUL SOFTBALL SUNDAY 8/2/2015 VIDEOS & SLIDE SHOW CLIPS
"SKINNER VISION"Today was a great day of fun, baseball, and food with a lot of love in the community!*CLICK ON HD NEXT TO VOLUME ICON FOR BETTER VIEWING THANKS*Posted by Sharome U-Shaka Skinner on Monday, August 3, 2015