Wearing bright yellow t-shirts and carrying big orange brooms, 106 volunteers swept Cutting Boulevard on Saturday all the way from San Pablo Avenue to the Richmond Plunge.
People of all ages and colors snatched empty garbage bags from Miracle Temple Church and jumped in vans or took off on foot to cover more than 37 city blocks picking up litter. Sometimes the rubbish was as simple as a bubble gum wrapper or cigarette butt. At other times it was as dangerous as a dirty syringe.
“When people in the street know that we’re together and that we’re watching, people won’t just come out shooting or drug dealing,” said Carriage Hills Community Church Bishop Andre W. Jackson, who organized the event. “Why? Because everybody’s watching—everybody’s got an ear.”
Bishop Jackson says Sweeping the City is only partly about making the streets look pretty. More importantly it’s a spiritual revival to build trust between churches, business owners, public officials and the community.
“When we can come out and humble ourselves to sweep the street of trash, we will set a standard to reach a higher level of commitment to the people we serve in the community.”
Former Richmond resident, Sharon Changeux, of Novato, said she got a tap on the shoulder when she went to bed late Friday night.
“I went to bed about 1:30 and the Lord said ‘You get there. You got a commitment,'” Changeux said. “I got touched with His finger of love, and I’m here because I feel obligated.”
Changeux said she grew up in a Richmond when it had the candy factory, Great American Burger and the old Plunge. She said she wants to reclaim her community from flying bullets and fear so children can be proud about where they come from.
Bishop Jackson couldn’t agree more. Cutting Boulevard used to be the black Wall Street, he said.
“So what happened? What do we have left?” asked the bishop. “God left us with these churches. That’s what’s going to come out of this street cleaning—the unifying of the church.”
Krystal Harris lives right around the corner from Miracle Temple Church, and says she was stumbling around in her own mess when she found help there. She says the ministers taught her to get up and do something for others and not just talk about loving the Lord.
“Today I was just singing and picking up trash,” said Harris. “I’m just thankful that we bound together with other churches to do work for the Lord.”
Garden of Peace Pastor Henry Washington and executive director for the interfaith program Operation Richmond says Sweeping the City has made an impact on the bickering and disunity in the south part of Richmond.
“As we physically moved our brooms and picked up trash, we symbolically and spiritually moved into a new dimension,” said Pastor Washington. “A new day and new dawning. There is no division at all.”
All morning volunteer Arthur Harris, of Richmond, transported broom-wielding infantries up and down Cutting Boulevard. Between shuffles he picked up all garbage bags left behind and took them to the church’s parking lot for the city to collect.
“Today I helped pick up about 60 heavy garbage bags,” said Harris with a smile.
Jumping back into the van, Harris zoomed off to collect more volunteers gathering trash and scattering seeds of revival along the famous Richmond corridor.