Annual Richmond event offers holiday hope for violence survivors

Youth were provided toys at the Healing Circles of Hope--MASK Holiday Party and Toy Giveaway on Thursday, Dec. 19, at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Richmond. (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

It may take a village, but it begins with the individual. At the Healing Circles of Hope — Mothers Against Senseless Killings’ (MASK) Holiday Party and Toy Giveaway on Thursday, Dec. 19, a dozen community members were recognized for their violence prevention efforts locally and throughout the Bay Area.

The 14th annual holiday event, held this year at the Veterans Memorial Hall on 23rd Street in Richmond, treats crime survivors and the mothers and families of victims of violence to a full holiday dinner, complete with a toy giveaway.

Charlene Harris, who founded Healing Circles of Hope-MASK in 2013, says the event aims to inspire hope and alleviate pain in kids and their mothers who have endured violence.

“We try and make this holiday event more festive every year for the kids and their mothers,” she said.

The event is both about the community, and also supported by the community. Sponsors this year include the Richmond Police Department, Toys For Tots, Chevron, Walmart, Californians for Safety & Justice, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Office of Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

Another highlight was the 2019 Community Service Recognition Awards Ceremony, which “celebrates those people working as activists in the community,” according to Betty Blackmore-Gee, a computer graphics designer who works closely with MASK.

Here are this year’s recipients:

Dr. Michael Changaris – Dr. Changaris was lauded for his advocacy and work in the Contra Costa County program REMEDY, a support group for individuals impacted by incarceration.

Antwon Cloird – Cloird wears many hats in the community, but perhaps one of his largest is as founder of Men and Women of Purpose, a Richmond program that promotes efforts successful re-entry for formerly incarcerated citizens. He is also a member of Rich Minds Mental Health networking group and a first responder to incidents of community violence.

From left to right: Cezar Zepeda, KK Kinney, Antwon Cloird, and Charlene Harris.

Jeanice Cummings – Described as a highly effective poet, author, motivational speaker, and Domestic Violence and Trauma Coach serving Richmond and the Bay Area.

Tinisch Hollins– The director of Californians for Safety & Justice was recognized for her longtime commitment of serving and advocating the rights of others, primarily within the City and County of San Francisco.

Jerrold and Carole Johnson – The couple was recognized for their ‘bold acts’ to serve the community of Richmond, as stewards of faith, activism and the commitment to serve others in the City of Richmond.

Mike Raccoon Eyes and KK Kinney – Yes! My wife and I were so grateful to be recognized for holding the annual Indigenous People’s Walk for Sobriety to educate Richmond youth and young adults about the dangers of alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

From left to right, KK Kinney, Uche Uwahemu (field rep for Assemblymember Buffy Wicks) and Charlene Harris.

Michelle Milam – Richmond Police Department Crime Prevention Manager as a multi-talented community servant in in addressing the core issues of street crime, domestic violence and violence prevention.

Arlinda Timmons – The longtime community activist was recognized for supporting successful re-entry of formerly incarcerated residents, including with REMEDY, a support group for those impacted by incarceration.

State of California Assembly member Buffy Wicks – A long-time community organizer and activist, Wicks was recognized for championing the “Break the Cycle of Violence Act,” a bill designed to bolster gun violence prevention programs.

Cesar Zepeda – The co-founder of the Richmond Rainbow Pride, Zepeda, who rarely misses an opportunity to help out at community events, was lauded for raising awareness about LGBTQ issues.

This years sponsors were Chevron, Richmond Police Department, Toys For Tots, Walmart, California for Safety & Justice, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Office of Mayor Tom Butt, City of Richmond.