North Richmond Urban Nature Loop Point of Interest #10
You are standing in front of a large public park, one of only two parks in the neighborhood (the other being the Ball Park you already walked along, near the Wildcat Creek trail). The park and community Center are great places to get people together, and celebrate the current and heritage music legacy of North Richmond!
Shields Reid Park Renovation. The City of Richmond received a large grant to renovate this park. The involvement of community members is crucial in the new design process, as they have participated in defining the park’s features and appearance, including the selection of artwork to be installed. The renovated park will include a children’s play area, a fitness zone, lighting and fencing, a 138-square-foot restroom, and a performance stage. Having these new amenities would be an encouragement for the community to reconnect with the outdoors and each other. It would be a great addition for the community to have a performance center, especially since North Richmond was once the hub for Blues Clubs. It would be a perfect place to host events like the Blues Music Festival, which serves to celebrate and commemorate blues music.
The History of North Richmond and Environmental Justice. During World War II, many Black Americans moved from the South and Midwest to join the war effort and work in the booming military-related industry developing along the Richmond Coast: the shipyard, petroleum, railway, and shipping industries. North Richmond was quickly built to accommodate the influx of workers and their families. This was a low-grade infrastructure design, built on degraded land that was then vulnerable to creek flooding, and today also vulnerable to sea level rise flooding. To this day, the lack of walkable routes, sidewalks, access to nature, and public assets, the vulnerability to natural hazards, and the pollution left behind from the military-related industry are issues the residents are coping with – a topic this Urban Nature Loop is trying to address and improve.
North Richmond Music Scene. The discrimination black people faced in the East Bay prevented them from entering white-owned establishments, and as a result, North Richmond quickly became a hub for black-owned businesses. A music scene emerged along Grove Street and 3rd Street, featuring vibrant, bluesy, country twang that represented the influx of Southerners to the area. Entertainment became an integral part of the community, and popular nightclubs began to sprout up.
One example of multiple similar stories is that of Minnie Lue Nichols. A Georgia native, she arrived in North Richmond in 1948 and quickly opened a restaurant in North Richmond, becoming the first black businesswoman to obtain a liquor license. Minnie Lue’s was one of the premier nightclubs for entertainment and blues music, and together with other famous nightclubs including the Savoy and Tappers Inn, they attracted people of all races from all over the Bay Area to enjoy food and entertainment. North Richmond became the primary hub for West Coast blues. By the 1970s, as the industry along the Coast gradually winded down, North Richmond residents experienced an economic depression, and combined with the increasing pull from the TV entertainment industry, music nightclubs were shut down. To learn more about the North Richmond music scene as well as the history of the neighborhood, visit the online exhibition created by Doug Harris Media.
North Richmond Blues Festival. The Blues Music Festival is a neighborhood event taking place at Shields Reid Park every year around July. It was founded by Dr. Henry Clark, who wished to honor musicians who participated in the North Richmond music scene. Ms. Cynthia Jordan, one of the founding members, said that starting the festival was not easy, and committee members needed to be persistent, as funding was uncertain. Despite the challenges, the festival has continued every year since 2010 (except for COVID years).
Currently, the planning committee comprises Ms. DeJeana Burkes and Ms. Cynthia Jordan, along with multiple community volunteers. Past performers have included Jimmy McCracklin, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Jessie Johnson, Filmore Slim, Faye Caroll, Lady E, and Reggie Rolls, to name a few. Gospel singers and Latino groups have also been featured, and in 2022, the festival opened with the Aztec Dancers. Upcoming festivals plan to bring more diversity to the stage while sticking to the Blues theme. Ms. Jordan gets various organizations to set up tables at the festival and does community outreach. To be part of future events, you can contact Ms. Burkes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-908-3088.