Last Sunday was the “Richmond Survives Covid-19: Strengthening Our Survival Strategies Together” zoom town hall!  Participants included Ada Marisol Recinos (immigrant activist), Tamisha Walker (Safe Return Project), Michelle Chan (Richmond Progressive Alliance), Katherine Lee (APEN), Melvin Willis (RCC & Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment), Dawn Haney (#nobodyisdisposable Coalition), and myself.  Local leaders identified key policies and initiatives that address the immediate needs of citizens.  The two-hour meeting was a precursor to an unknown future.

2011 Richmond fireworks.

Ada Recinos (immigrant activist and former City of Richmond council member) discussed the political inaction of securing paths that lead to citizenship.  Recinos: “…communities are already living in stressful situations.”  Resources are limited and lack accessibility due to English only options.  In addition, advocacy fundraising was a challenge before and now during a pandemic.

Richmond City Hall.

Tamisha Walker (Safe Return Project) highlighted current California incarceration reforms and discussed the individual impacts within the community.  She stressed the importance of advocating for the right to vote and releasing prisoners due to Covid-19.  From website: “The Safe Return Project is an organization of formerly incarcerated individuals and their allies working to strengthen the relationship of people coming home from incarceration with the broader community.  We understand that breaking the cycle of incarceration and crime will take positive leadership by formerly incarcerated residents contributing to the greater community.  For the over six years we have carried out critical participatory Action research, community organizing, and policy advocacy to build community power and foster healing.  The work of Safe Return and our communities has shifted the dominant narrative about who disproportionately impacted by criminalization but also about who is returning back to our communities.  Our primary goal is to put the people closest to the pain of inequity at the center of the movement for First Chances.”

Tamisha Walker.

Katherine Lee (APEN) shared how uniting together strengthens community resolve in uncertain times.  According to the website: ”Asian Pacific Environmental Network is an environmental justice organization with deep roots in California’s Asian immigrant and refugee communities.  Since 1993, we’ve built a membership base of Laotian refugees in Richmond and Chinese immigrants in Oakland.  Together, we’ve fought and won campaigns to make our communities healthier, just places where people can thrive.”


Michelle Chan (Richmond Progressive Alliance) stressed the importance of building just and sustainable economies in resilient food systems and energy.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s With demand lessened, Martinez oil refinery to halt production temporarily article: “The Marathon oil refinery in Martinez will go idle on April 27 for an unknown period of time due to decreased demand, company officials said…Gas prices in California have fallen sharply along with decreased demand as many companies have ordered employees to work from home or shut their doors as a consequence of the coronavirus and the slowdown in economic activity it has caused.”  Can Richmond build a fossil fuel free future out of this pandemic?  Yes!

Michelle Chan.

Melvin Willis (Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment and and City of Richmond council member) provided context on how the city struggles to deliver services while dealing with personal struggles.  In times of Covid-19, workers face uncertainty and how to house the unsheltered continues.  Despite numerous issues, we must still connect!


Dawn Haney (#nobodyisdisposable Coalition) shared how social conditions impact humanity.  From the #nobodyisdisposable Coalition overview: “This is a ‘Know Your Rights’ toolkit that covers rights and strategies for people facing potential triage discrimination based on disability or weight, alone or in combination with other characteristics, during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.”


Nicole Valentino.

Facilitators Nicole Valentino, B K Williams, and Dawn Haney masterfully guided the discussion.  Information is power!  Fully understanding the scope of Covid-19, starts with one discussion.  Here’s to many more…