Maiya Newsome-Edgerly: Richmond Youth Urge Local Non-Profit Organizations to Unite

blogimage.jpgRichmond is a mecca for many non-profit organizations that want progressive change. One issue that has a great impact on progress in Richmond is the miscommunication between our youth and older generations, but local youth organizations are willing to break the ice and challenge this problem. 

For a relatively small city, Richmond has one of the largest non-profit bases in the Bay Area. Richmond has a population of 106,000 residents and over 507 non-profit organizations. According to, 43 of those non-profit organizations are members of the Chamber.

Richmond is also home to nationally acclaimed arts and culture programs such as The Richmond Art Center, The East Bay for Performance Arts, the National Institute of Arts and Disabilities (NIAD), and many other art and cultural organizations that are making a lasting, cultural impact.

Youth-driven non-profit organizations have saturated the city. Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL) has a youth center that includes a state of the art recording studio, computer lab, physical training gym, and other impressive resources. Girls Incorporated of West Contra County delivers after school and college preparatory programming to young girls in Richmond.

On August 30th, RPAL recently collaborated with Youth Works, Youth Service Bureau, Girls Incorporated, and other supporting organizations to host the back to school “Be a Mentor Blitz” event. The event was hub for inner-city youth to connect with Richmond professionals and potential mentors.

Spoken word, music, film, and theatre sectors are alive and well in the city of Richmond. An example of such programs is Richmond Artists with Talent (RAW Talent), the creative arts program within the non-profit organization Making Waves, an after school program in Richmond that has produced sold-out performances and ground-breaking documentaries that expose neighborhood turf issues impacting “The Real Richmond.”

RAW Talent member and spoken word artist Donte Clark explained the significance of unity among non-profits organizations. “Many Richmond non-profits need to collaborate more. In the end, the major goal is to serve the needs of the community, but often non-profits find themselves competing against each other for funding, media exposure and board members," said Clark. "We all have this job because there is an under-serviced community. It’s not about the non-profits, but it’s about the young people.” There are many Richmond youth who can identify with Donte’s perspective about the need for Richmond’s non-profits to collaborate to meet demand.

Last Thursday, the RYSE Center and RAW Talent announced their partnership to form “RAW Talent Productions: RYSE’s Music and Performing Arts Program. As the RYSE Center’s Music and Performing Arts Program, RAW Talent will organize film screenings, video and beat production, artist development, poetry slams, theatre, and many more youth-affiliated programming.

RYSE Executive Director Kimberly Aceves believes the collaboration will give youth a strong sense of ownership over local issues. “We can’t solely rely on the mainstream media’s viewpoint on our city. That’s why we are encouraging our youth to write and create their own community stories," said Aceves. "We are also teaching our young people how to use Apple’s video editing software Final Cut Pro.” The new collaboration between RAW Talent and RYSE Center shows the promise of collaborative efforts.

If Richmond wants to continue stretching and strengthening its community infrastructure, our city will need to make the development of its young people a top priority. The city of Richmond is infested with many complex social ills, and if community organizations aren’t delivering compelling outreach to Richmond youth, then our community will have trouble producing creative solutions that could turn around systemic struggles.

YouthWorks Project Coordinator Jay Leonhardy elaborates about Richmond's commitment to systemic social change. “Richmond is a mecca for non-profits that are committed to systemic social change. We don’t have any more resources than other communities. Arguably, we have fewer resources than a lot other communities, but we have challenges," explained Leonhardy. "The people that come to Richmond to address those challenges generally have deep ties to the community either through their support, staff, or their origin.”

In 2007-2009, the recession caused some local non-profit organizations to struggle to keep their doors open for service. The power of Richmond's community has allowed local community organizations to continue to service its local residents. It takes a certain boldness to not solely depend on outside funding and find ways to become self-sufficient as community organizations.

Yes, Richmond does have fewer resources than other cities and communities, but its strong sense of community, as well as the commitment of so many groups to the city’s improvement, will continue to push Richmond forward.

By: Maiya Newsome-Edgerly, Journalist and Richmond Resident

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