Earth Day celebrations bring Richmond together

Richmond and North Richmond turned “green” on Saturday, celebrating the international Earth Day with a “Green” Panther Parade that was five times bigger than the one last year and several other events throughout the city.

One of the events included the opening of a new community garden in North Richmond. Iyalode Kinney could hardly hold back her tears as she was blessed the garden, which was dedicated to Ervin Coley III, 21-year-old victim of shooting that took place on March 29. “It was the last garden he worked, the last garden where we laughed and sang together,” said Kinney, who was Coley’s manager and mentor on the North Richmond Lots of Crops project, where he had worked since December. “No, I don’t want to cry again… But I know his spirit is with us, it is in this garden.”

The garden blessing inaugurated the second annual North Richmond Green Panther Parade. Kinney, who for the day went by the name “Mother Earth,” asked all the celebrants to hold hands and repeat: “The Earth is my mother, she takes care of me. The Earth is my mother, I take care of her.”

The crowd or Richmond and North Richmond citizens, who gathered at 10 am at 237 Vernon Avenue, also listened to the speeches given by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles and Courtland “Corky” Booze, among others.

“This garden shows what we can do all together,” said McLaughlin. “We are one, Richmond and North Richmond together.”

“To me there is no South or North Richmond. We are one community,” added Booze.

“We are proud of our community. We are proud of all this kids being here, not on the streets,” said Carla Orozco, one of the event’s organizers.

After the official ceremony, the colorful crowd, led by members of the five North Richmond “Green” baseball and softball community teams and musicians from the Straw Hat Band from UC Berkeley, started marching. Motorcycles, police and fire cars, musicians from La Rondalla del Sagrado Corazon and vehicles from La Raza Car Club also joined the parade, which ran along Filbert, Chesley, Cherry, Alamo and Kelsey Streets.

The parade’s route ended at the Shields Reid Ball Park and Community Center, where there was a free barbecue and music as three of five North Richmond “Green” Little League teams played games.

“I am just so inspired by this community, which can do so much good,” said McLaughlin as she summed up the event. “It is important that we come together in taking care of our planet.”

In addition to the parade, the City of Richmond celebrated Earth Day by organizing a compost giveaway in the parking lot in front of Civic Center. The big queue started forming at 9 am on Saturday morning. “It is a great idea. We need compost for our garden and it’s good that it comes from Richmond,” said Hugo Nica, who came to pick up compost with son Moises, age 9. “My son particularly enjoys keeping worms there and watching how they fertilize the ground.”

“The compost is made from the city’s residential food scrap collection and composting program. It can be added as a rich soil amendment to home gardens,” explained Jennifer Ley, Richmond’s City Council’s sustainability assistant. “We organized the giveaway for the second time—the first one was in October.”

Every resident could pick up two cubic feet of free compost, which equaled to about three buckets. “I think we have enough compost for 300 – 400 residents,” said Ley. A “Compost Guru” explained the benefits of composting and advised how to best apply it.

People who showed up at the parking lot could also take home a free plant, and receive an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulb in exchange for an old halogen floor lamp.

At the same time, the group of volunteers coordinated by Watershed Project, a Richmond-based organization committed to inspiring Bay Area communities to protect local watersheds, were busy cleaning local creeks.

You can learn more about Earth Day events around the world at EarthDay.org.

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