Tag Archives: Richmond

Public Transportation is a Must, But Not a Solution to Racism

6 Sep

Reading All Aboard? by Ben Campbell brought up conflicting emotions for me.

I felt excited about a public transportation system that might be effective, affordable, and improve the lives of so many low income people in Richmond. I was also excited by Campbell’s accurate, historical look at the loss of good public transit in Richmond, and how he identified racism and bigotry as the reasons why we ended up with the terrible transit we currently eke by with,

So, to get a few things straight before I go into a slight critique-

1- I am for a larger, better thought out, more affordable, multi-jurisdictional public transit system for the Metro Richmond Area.

2- I am against racism, segregation, and policies, institutions and practices that reinforce racism.

The part of Campbell’s article that I think deserves challenging and a more in depth discussion, is the seeming underlying assumption that developing a better public transit system would be anti-racist, and a step towards changing Richmond’s long, dirty legacy of racism. Racism is complex. Racism is not a flag we can change out front of City Hall and move on. Racism is an issue that all Richmonders will have to do a lot of work around for us to take steps forward as a city.
The loss of public transit in Richmond was a symptom of the underlying disease of racism.

Treating the symptom is not enough to solve our problems.
There are some really great things about a better, less segregationist public transit system- the possibility for people to interact more outside of their race, better opportunities for jobs and recreational activities for low income people of color, and more.

But without a more holistic approach to the issue of racism in our city and society, we won’t be “solving” racism. One complicating factor I can think of is simply that a change in our City’s ranking, without a change in real estate practices, might just exacerbate issues of gentrification. As Richmond grows in popularity, low income people, many of whom are People of Color, are forced out of their homes and neighborhoods in response in increasing real estate values. Gentrification represents a systematic problem, out of any individual’s hands to stop. But until this process, poverty, and racism are actively being addressed, I don’t want to see Richmond’s ranking go up.

An improved public transit system would be a marked difference in City policy and programming. Many of the urban renewal projects over the years have been pretty clearly directed towards improving the desireability of Richmond to people who might visit or might one day move here. Consider the tourist aspects of many of the recent projects and events. First Fridays which attracts many people from surrounding counties, and has difficulty when low income youth of color from surrounding neighborhoods in the city start attending in mass. The Canal Walk, where I’ve only ever gone with my grandma (love you grandma). The Convention Center. The upcoming 2015 cycling event. Richmond’s urban planning efforts have been fairly pitiful, and seem to reflect the racism and classism of the City government.

Richmond does need to focus more on keeping current residents, helping current residents, and developing ways to make our daily lives better. Jobs, housing, access to healthy food, and transportation are some really great places to start.

Some questions Richmonders should be asking themselves in the mean time are:

What are we doing to make Richmond a better place for the people who are currently living here?
How can we make sure we take care of the current residents before visitors or potential new residents?
What do low income people want and need?
What do people of color want and need?
How can we listen to low income people and people of color more?

If Richmond really does want to shed our racist reputation we’ve got some work to do. Let’s get a better public transit system, but make sure we don’t lose sight of the whole disease of racism while we ride around on some buses.

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Why I want to protect First Fridays!

10 Aug

I have never been a regular attendee of Richmond’s First Fridays Art Walk. In fact, over the years I have been a major critic of the event and the concept of the event.

Richmond is by no means unique in having such an art walk. The tactic of using an art walk to push for the redevelopment or gentrification of an area (depending on your perspective) is not at a new concept. Richmond has had First Fridays for over a decade now. And while over that decade there have been major changes to the Jackson Ward/ Broad Street area, they have no occurred quite as  quickly as they might have were we not in an economic depression. I’m no expert, but the aspects of City Planning that I have studied and read about have lead me to take a position against Art Walks, Canal Walks, Convention Centers and other cookie cutter redevelopment schemes that fail to address the actual needs or wants of people living in a city.

Jackson Ward is a historically black working class neighborhood. The demographics of that neighborhood have been changing, particularly via VCU students moving in. First Fridays basically occurring in Jackson Ward was something I viewed as problematic- another major gentrifying move that had the potential to hurt that community and displace lower income people.

When I have gone to First Fridays in the past it was mostly to support friends who had art on display or who were performing. I even helped to organize some First Fridays events- like the Richmond Zine Fest at Gallery 5 in 2009. And what I saw was mostly white people.  And I saw a lot of white people who were more affluent. Which is definitely the type of crowd this sort of event is desinged to draw in.

I would acknowledge at this point that there have been organizers of First Fridays, Gallery owners and artists, who have all along worked to make this event inclusive and welcoming to pre-existing residents of Jackson Ward and the surrounding areas. I have just always been highly skeptical of their chances of success despite their good intentions.

So I mostly stopped going to First Fridays. I was not interested in participating in  a redevelopment strategy that seemingly reached out only to suburbanites and fearful west enders, adventuring into the heart of a city they really don’t understand. But then this year, we started to hear the rumblings of something else. I am a member of the non-hierarchical organization Richmond Copwatch. We listen to a digital scanner to hear what the Richmond Police are up to. This enables us to go out and observe and record the police, thereby helping to keep them accountable for their behavior. So through this and conversations with people we know who do attend First Fridays we began to hear that this year, the police were there in force, disrupting the crowd.

We heard that the police had maced the crowd a couple times, ridden their horses into the middle of crowds, and were trying to organize with Curated Culture (the non-profit that officially organizes First Fridays) to change the times of the event and potentially get rid of it altogether. We heard from many non-anarchists, respected community members about town, that the police were being very aggressive and that a lot of this aggressiveness seemed directed towards people of color. The media and others mostly spoke of the “youth”, but in this case the youth they meant was mostly youth of color.

Richmond Copwatch decided as a collective to go to the August First Fridays to observe and record the Richmond Police Department. I was still conflicted about how I felt about organizing to try and save something I have been avidly against in the past. For me, my motivations for going were mostly hearing from “youth” from my neighborhood (Southern Barton Heights on Northsiiiide) about the police presence. Regardless of the art, regardless of the suburbanites, I was interested in using Copwatch as a method to try and keep my friends and neighbors, as well as folks from neighboring communities like Gilpin Court a little bit safer from RPD.

We met at the Rite Aid parking lot for August First Fridays. Which was a bad idea, because of the whole private corporate property thing. But we met there, and then hung out in the parking lot waiting for one Copwatch member to go purchase some energy drinks from inside.  They came out and distributed the drinks to the caffeine fiends among us. We were just about to head out in smaller groups to patrol First Fridays for police, when lo and behold one came to us.  This RPO – Toney Waldorf- came speeding into the Rite Aid parking lot, parking at an angle, and got out of his car, basically yelling at me and my friend. He said something along the lines of “Hey you”. I asked if we were being detained (because if you are not being detained you do not have to talk to the police and can go on your merry way). He didn’t respond except to say he was not talking to me. He then crossed in front of me and unholstered his Tazer and held it about 2 feet from my friend’s face. Waldorf is a tall cop, and he positioned himself on a median above my friend, which made it so he would have been shooting my friend in the face had he fired his Tazer. That is the closest up I have ever seen a Tazer, and the fastest I have seen a Richmond  Cop freak out and pull a weapon. Tazers are less lethal weapons, just like if I shoot you in the foot with a .22 it is less lethal. They are still deadly and being shot with a Tazer can very easily end in death. Especially if someone has a heart problem, which my friend does.

Quickly other RPD arrived and kicked the rest of us (who were filming at this point) out of the parking lot. One of them, Stone, committed battery against me by shoving my arm while I was clearly backing out of the lot and not at all resisting. They eventually let my friend go, after we showed a commanding officer the picture of Waldorf with a Tazer in my friend’s face. He had no charges, had done nothing wrong, was simply wearing the same color shorts as a suspect in a call they had received.

So my first experience back with First Fridays is Toney Waldorf, Richmond Cop, freaking out, unholstering a weapon at an inappropriate time and in violation of protocol, and threatening to kill my friend.

As the night carried on, it became quite clear that First Fridays had changed. I liked it better. There were kids from my neighborhood, and overall a lot of people of color seemed to be enjoying a public space. I am a huge proponent of public spaces and our ability to use them. It is the lack of public spaces in lower income neighborhoods that can make community development and organization more difficult. Downtown was packed, loud, and seemed to be full of people enjoying themselves.  These were not the people who might be likely to eat at some of the few new fancy restaurants on Broad Street, but they were people socializing in an area that could certainly benefit from development of community. Continue reading

Update from the Monroe Park Occupation – 1 week in

14 Mar
From the website of the Monroe Park Occupation
RPD continue to kick people out of other parks and camps in Richmond.The Monroe Park Occupation is now having people who get kicked out of places like Kanawha Plaza come to join the camp. A lot of the time though, RPD does not let people grab their belongings before kicking them out. So more blankets/tents/tarps/food/entertainment is crucial.
The Occupation had about …8 people show up in the middle of the night last night and folks are excited that the Occupation is a safe place to sleep, but would also like it to be warm!

To contact the Occupation come to the corner of Main and Laurel. You may also email monroparkoccupation@gmail.com or visit http://www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com for more updates.

The Monroe Park Occupation is a group of people forming a community in Monroe Park near the corner of Main and Laurel.
They are a multi-issue Occupation that has been encamped in Monroe Park since 4pm on Monday March 7th.
A City Official informed the Occupation on Friday March 11th that City Administrators wanted to negotiate with the Occupation.

However, the Occupation will only meet to discuss demands once the City gets the cops to stop busting up all homeless camps. Once that is agreed upon, folks from the occupation will meet with City Officials in the park at 11 at night.

Current Demands:
– Don’t cut down trees in Monroe Park
-Legalize Squatting in Richmond
-25-100% of Monroe Park should remain open at all times
-Stop destroying/busting up homeless camps Continue reading

Churchill Food Not Bombs- Wednesdays at 6 in Jackson Park

16 Feb

I’m don’t do Wednesday Food Not Bombs, but wanted to give some attention to them, and encourage folks to help organize a  free community meal in Churchill. Here is there info:

http://www.richmondfoodnotbombs.wordpress.com

In Church Hill there is a Wednesday Serving:

Church Hill has a new regular Food Not Bombs event on Wednesdays! Come out at 3pm to help cook at 1111 North 21st Street in Church Hill to help cook.

Come help serve and eat at Jefferson Park at 6pm at the East End of the park in front of Alamo BBQ.

We are new and still need a whole lot of stuff! So if you have any thing you can donate, such as cutting boards, knives, spices, water coolers, dry goods, money, energy, or time, let us know!

You can call Allison at 804 516 3062 or Ellen at 912 541 4234 or email allibertine@gmail.com for more information!

Train Cake, Family, Dogs and more!

4 Feb

Vegan Chocolate Train Cake Ada and I baked!

Ada making a delicious ginger lemon glaze

Jeremy rockin the Ramen

Stephen doing the dishes and earning the love

My mommy and daddy

I don't even know how these dogs got this cute!

RPD Backs Down from Legal Harassment, Anarchy Continues

11 Jan

The Richmond Police Department apparently told a reporter last night that they were dismissing their case against us in court. We have not yet received any official word regarding this- no papers or call or anything. (You never call, you never write). But if this is true it just means that the RPD and the City Attorney realized the HUGE publicity blunder they made in attempting to harass us via court complaints and emergencies orders over FOIA documents.

This does not mean they won’t try and file some other legal documents against us. And it doesn’t mean that the harassment is over. It only means that these particular documents that they filed might be retracted. Without an official apology or statement in regards to it being fucked up to harass us for being anarchists, and also illegal for them to ask for FOIA documents back, this does not mean much.

I appreciate the support legally and media wise from the ACLU.

I appreciate the media attention and coverage of anarchists that this whole tactical error on the part of the RPD and the City Attorney has given us. I also appreciate their direct involvement of my political beliefs in this case. They have made it exceedingly clear that we are enemies. The State and the police feel threatened by anarchists because we stand vehemently against their hierarchies and positions of power. I am anti-authoritarian. I am anti-hierarchy. I want the state and police to be destroyed. I don’t want reform, and I don’t think you can legislate or vote in real change. We need a revolution of the people. And it needs to start in all of our daily lives and communities. If we change our day to day, if we build our own alternatives to the state while resisting oppression, we might see a better world in our lifetimes.

The current system of capitalism and hierarchy CLEARLY does not work. Not for the jobless, the homeless, the hungry, the people without access to good education or healthcare. Not for the environment, future generations, animals, or indigenous people. We need to start trying new things. They won’t all work. But we will never progress into something better if we don’t start trying to find better ways of existing together.

 

 

Monroe Park Advisory Council- Sittin’ Pretty, Pretty Classist…

3 Jan
The Monroe Park Advisory Council is the organization which created the plan for the renovations of Monroe Park. They are also very unrepresentative of the people who use the park. They also fail to represent the diversity of Richmond- or come at all close. I have found one concrete way to show how different the lives of many of the MPAC members are from other people in the City. Doing some background research I discovered the following which goes at least a little ways towards pointing towards the obvious class prejudice present in the Monroe Park Advisory Council. I did property searches on the City of Richmond website to see who owned property and how much it was worth. There is of course the possibility that I have the totally wrong individuals, although I have done my best to research honestly. The people I was not sure about are listed at the bottom. 

For full disclosure and to save the haters some time, here is the same information on myself:

The Wingnut has a total real estate value of 127,000. Worth a lot more to me though! (And owning ANY property at all, regardless of its value still denotes a good amount of privilege)

Owner: KARN MORIAH MARGARET

Mailing Address: 2005 BARTON AVE, RICHMOND, VA 23222

The Esteemed Councilman coming in at a relatively modest 264,000 value on his property:
Owner: SAMUELS CHARLES R & KRISTA M

Mailing Address: 203 N MULBERRY ST, RICHMOND, VA 23220

And now for the MPAC members:

Next Time Alice Massie tries to pull the poor teacher card….her house is assessed at over 1.1 million dollars. Those Monument Avenue addresses sure are pricey- but you’d have to pay me to live that close to statues of dead confederate assholes:

Owner: MASSIE WILLIAM MCKINNON JR AND ALICE MCGUIRE MASSIE

Mailing Address: 1643 MONUMENT AVE, RICHMOND, VA 2322000000
Continue reading