north richmond redemptions

Blues to return to North Richmond Saturday

on July 21, 2011

In the post-World War II years, North Richmond was one of the liveliest, bluesiest little enclaves in the Bay Area, a place where whining guitars, blue collar abandon and Southern-inspired eats intersected in a glorious mélange. But as the neighborhood grew poorer, the clubs and bars shuttered one by one, and the music was muffled by economic malaise.

For one day at least, this community is ready to bring it all back.

Bluesman Jesse James will headline an array of performers set to let the music fly Saturday at Shields-Reid Park for the second annual North Richmond Music Festival. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Joining James will be Umoja Community Choir, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, the Frank Samuels Blues Band, Willie G and Ella Pennywell, DeJeana Burkes, Shailla Head, Billy and the Thrillers and the Alvon Johnson Band.

And organizers say it won’t only be bluesmen, but also Spanish language musical performers like Rondalla de Sagrado Corazon, arts and crafts, face-painting and educational booths should be a big draw.

“This is really a family oriented event,” said Carla Orozco, community services coordinator for Neighborhood House of North Richmond, an event sponsor. “Last year we had about 200 people come out, and this year we expect at least that many.”

Orozco said attendees will enjoy free barbecue and local nonprofits will hand out free plants, part of a recent push to foster more urban gardening in North Richmond. City police and fire personnel will be on hand to interact with residents and kids.

The event will also feature a special ceremony, as one of North Richmond’s most revered sons will be honored for a lifetime of service. Community activist and hometown hero Fred Jackson—after whom the neighborhood’s largest street is named—will be the guest of honor.

North Richmond is a tiny community of around 3,000 residents that is divided between the city of Richmond and unincorporated county jurisdiction. It’s modern incarnation began with WWII, as the new population of African American residents who migrated in for war-related work were pushed into what quickly became a segregated community near the marshy north shore.

Shields Reid Neighborhood Council President Saleem Bey said the event was launched last year as an overdue ode to the neighborhood’s rich heritage. “This is something that we had on the table, and as a community we had to get together and embrace our long and deep history of music and culture,” Bey said. “We need to get in touch with our musical roots, because music is a way to get people together in a positive way.”

Last year’s event was headlined by West Coast blues icon and acclaimed pianist Jimmy McCracklin .

The city of Richmond contributed $7,000 to orchestrating this Saturday’s event, according to Rev. Kenneth Davis, another organizer.

In addition to the city and the Shields Reid Neighborhood Council, other sponsors include the North Richmond Community Council, the West County Toxics Coalition and the North Richmond Municipal Advisory Committee.

  • Shields-Reid Park, 1410 Kelsey Ave.
  • Saturday, July 23
  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Free barbecue, bluesy tunes and good people
  • For further details, call 510-776-7568

|The 2nd Annual North Richmond Music Festival

1 Comment

  1. Barbara on July 23, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Nice to see something positive and grassroots. Hopefully the good music and atmosphere will provide much needed healing.



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