By Mike Kinney
Richmond residents partied with their city’s police officers and firefighters Tuesday night along with the other people who help keep them safe — their neighbors.
It was part of the city’s 21st annual National Night Out (NNO) celebration, which was canceled last year and scaled back this year due to the pandemic. While this year’s NNO didn’t include a caravan, public safety officials, civic leaders and community groups visited various block parties around the city. Events were well-attended, with fun activities citywide.
At the North & East Neighborhood Council’s NNO event on 31st Street between Barrett Ave and Roosevelt Ave., the Standard spotted Richmond police Chief Bisa French and city leaders including Mayor Tom Butt and City Manager Laura Snideman partaking in the fun.
NNO annually celebrates community spirit and volunteerism and aims to strengthen public safety partnerships that create a safer city for all. “The main goal of NNO is educating people in Richmond about safety,” North & East Council President Jan Mignone said.
Chief French said NNO is about “bringing all of Richmond together, so everybody is informed of what’s going on.”
“It is a great time to share resources like crime prevention, mental health and social support services with community,” added Michelle Milam, City of Richmond Crime Prevention Manager. “This year Contra Costa County Health Services provided vaccination clinics to also engage in the important work of getting people vaccinated.”
Community bonding has been difficult given the pandemic. North and East resident Sue Newman noted she had seen but not spent time with her neighbors in close to two years.
“We have great neighborhoods in all of Richmond and NNO brings us all together,” Mayor Butt added. “Many of us because of the pandemic have not been out for one year.”
NNO is a representation of what Richmond always does: band together through thick and thin.
“Richmond is a very involved community and community is what NNO is about,” Snideman shared. “Knowing your community is what builds strong neighborhoods.”
The NNO “kickoff event” for the city started at 5 p.m. at North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church, 1427 Fred Jackson Way in Richmond. Block parties were planned all over town, with an “end party” hosted by Coronado Neighborhood Council at 212 South 17th St.
“Everybody was welcomed to this wonderful community gathering,” said North Richmond Neighborhood Council President Marena Brown. “I tell folks that here in the North Richmond community we are diverse like a salad in a bowl.”
St. John Apartments at 121 West MacDonald Ave was among the NNO stops. The complex was celebrating a lack of gun violence in their area the past two years, Aperto Property Management Community Manager Roeshawn Black said.
Community advocate Antwon Cloird brought 40 brand new backpacks for children at St. John’s, donated by Green Remedy in Richmond. The backpacks were destined to be filled with school supplies. Also, gift cards were provided by Aperto Property Managers. Hope Depot donated aprons and building supplies so the children could make pencil boxes and little lockers for storage of their school supplies.
“By hosting this it will create opportunities to have partnerships with both the Richmond police and fire departments, along with other principals in Richmond; and most importantly the community,” Black said. “At St. John’s, we have new face and name, we are trying to remove the stigma of so many years of gun violence here in the past.”
Lynn Mack has been hosting the NNO 32nd Street Neighborhood Watch, between Barrett Ave. and Roosevelt Ave., for 12 years. With everyone living busy lives, the NNO is a wonderful way to pull everybody together, he said.
Joe Fisher of Fisher Reality shared similar sentiments from the NNO end party organized by the Coronado Neighborhood Council on South 17th Street. He’s been Coronado Neighborhood Council’s president for over 20 years.
“This helps in continuing of having our community growing together in love and harmony,” he said.