Hundreds attend return of Soulful Softball Sunday


Hundreds of people gathered at Nichol Park yesterday for the second annual running of Soulful Softball Sunday, a Richmond event aimed at unifying the community in a fun and active way.

Presented by The Sons of Issachar and featuring League Commissioner Oakland A’s great Mike Norris, Soulful Softball Sunday encourages community members from all parts of Richmond and North Richmond — including historically warring factions — to participate in order to replace the potential for violence with peace and opportunity.

The event was launched amid a spike in violence last year and was said to have helped heal the community. Along with good times, Soulful Softball Sunday brings dozens of career and education resources to locals and honors residents who are doing positive things in the community.

On Sunday, some 800 people were projected as attending. Co-founder Rodney “Alamo” Brown told them they should be proud and vigilant about the strides the community has been making in violence prevention.

“From 2004 to 2009, this city was labeled as one of the most deadliest in the state of California,” Brown told the crowd Sunday. “What I’m here to say, As of 2016, we’re no longer known underneath that moniker. It has taken a lot of collaboration in this city to make Richmond what it is now.”

Sunday’s event not only included great softball and food, but moments in which local community members were honored for good deeds.

Through community-contributed funds, Soulful Softball Sunday presented a $1,300 scholarship for Jaylan Morris, who plans to attend Grambling State University.

20160821_155411The Soulful Softball Sunday steering committee also celebrated a number of community members for their contributions to the community, including Menebere Akililu, Larry Gavin, Pat Saidon, Thomas Gary, Terrance Leonard, Kevin Whitaker and Bendrick Foster.

Additionally, Coach Thomas Gary of Wheelhouse Academy of Baseball gave an inspiring speech about the experiences of Richmond youth who played baseball in Cuba recently.

While games were played, prizes were raffled off to the public, with each attendee receiving a free ticket.

This year, the league was expanded when players from Oakland and Berkeley were invited for an exhibition game.

20160821_160816In its first summer, Soulful Softball Sunday earned praise and attendance by elected officials and other city leaders along with a Richmond City Council proclamation.

On Sunday, KTVU (Ch.2) produced a news segment about the event.

“It brings a bond between us and different generations,” DeWanda Joseph told the news station. “We grew up in Richmond. Some of our grandchildren get to come out here and hang out and have fun. All of us adults get to share our own experience of growing up in Richmond; what it was like for us growing up with our families.

Video, photos and story by Mike “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney.