North Richmond: A photo essay
on January 13, 2011
Just walking down the street in North Richmond gives you a glimpse of this community’s story. It’s a place of faded history and echoing vibrancy, suffused in poverty, pollution and sporadic violence. The people are strong. The pulse is still there.
The corner market draws mothers, children, roughnecks and raconteurs inside its walls, which are riddled with bullet holes and adorned with memorials to those killed in the streets.
The sagging yellow building on the west side of Kelsey Street clings to iron bars driven into its sloughing stucco exterior. A sign above advertises a boutique long since gone.
The largely vacant government housing projects are a few blocks away, many units gutted of their pipes and wiring and bearing the rot of water damage.
The scarred buildings stand impassive among sinews of overgrown vegetation.
There’s concrete and rebar molded into a building on Filbert Street.
If you listen closely, maybe you can hear the echoes of the sonorous saxophones or lively conversations that once flowed from Minnie Lou’s. For decades, it was the hottest spot in the neighborhood for food and entertainment.
But like almost every other business, Minnie Lou’s ceased to exist in North Richmond long ago, stripping another parcel of land of its soul.
Some of North Richmond’s history is intangible, but no less real. A cloud of sulfuric acid was released by the nearby chemical plant in 1993, a toxic drift that descended on this tiny community and sickened thousands.
The cloud is gone, but the scars are indelible, as are the decades of emissions from nearby dumps and oil refining operations, which combine with the natural sea breezes to ensure constant delivery of chemical vapors to the respiratory systems of the roughly 2,500 people who reside here.
This is a community at once within and apart from the city of Richmond and the surrounding Bay Area.
A square mile of unincorporated county land that has been bypassed during several annexations through the years, North Richmond is an island of pride, poverty and pollution with an identity all its own.
The photos in this essay attempt to capture the tragic beauty, fierce independence and irrepressible hope on display here every day.
Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.
Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.
Please send news tips to email@example.com.
Nice photo show . But you left out a lot that didn’t fit into this hard knock perspective . There are wonderful and uplifting goings on in North Richmond and Richmond itself . Go check out Verde School , the Community garden etc. . I’m the owner of Annie’s Annuals nursery right there on Market where you photographed ( But did not show) And yes I am a business in North Richmond along with many others here. We have folks from the community visiting everyday telling us of how they are working to support and improve the community . Please don’t buy into the one sided down- and -out view of our community . Big media already does enough of that .
Come back and give some attention to those who are working for positive change .
Thanks so much for the good advice. We will come back and look at the community from a different perspective and find some brighter sides of this story.
A Richmond resident for 23+ years, in the spring of 2009 I had a temp job checking addresses for the Census. One of my areas was North Richmond. I ran into lots of friendly people, and never felt afraid. Lots of speculators had gone in and knocked down old homes and put up bigger new ones, some empty or in foreclosure, or unfinished. Lots of potential that just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe next time!
I also Live in North Richmond and in the last 15 years the Latino Community has grown . i live near Shield Reid Park and it’s about Half Latino here and you completely Left out that segment of North Richmond’s community . like me and my Comrades Belive lets focus on all people of Richmond One Richmond .