Richmond forums aim to develop solutions to violent inner-city feuds

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Richmond forums aim to develop solutions to violent inter-city feuds
From left to right, Patrick Scott, Faheem LeJon Reese, Richmond Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III, and Dante Gaines. (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

In order to solve the problem of inner-city feuds that lead to violence among Richmond youth, whole-community solutions are needed, local advocates say.

On Friday, the nonprofit Motivated 2 Help Others and the Office of Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III held the first in a series of community forums at Richmond Memorial Auditorium aiming to identify and enact solutions that could reduce long-standing tensions within the community. The forum assembled a number of formerly incarcerated individuals who derive from different Richmond neighborhoods. Since re-entering into society, the men have established their own nonprofits or small businesses with the aim of providing resources, jobs and infrastructure in troubled Richmond neighborhoods that struggle with inter-city conflicts. 

Also featured on the panel was Wesley Alexander, CEO of CoBiz Richmond, a high-tech incubator and coworking space and a project of eQuip Richmond, the economic revitalization initiative funded by Chevron. CoBiz has provided foundational support for the growing efforts of Motivated 2 Help Others.

All panelists Friday agreed that one of the focuses should be on returning Richmond to a time where kids from all neighborhoods played sports like Pony League together so they can establish bonds.

“We must be a part of changing the community and returning it back to the way it used to be,” panelist Dante Gaines said. “We must help everyone in our neighborhoods. We have that one mission, that one goal.”

Richmond Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III speaks at Friday’s community forum at Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

Panelist Ahmad Hassan called for additional mental health and anger management services in neighborhoods in need. In order for young people to be able to see their potential, they need both encouragement and guidance so they take advantage of various support services, fellow panelist Patrick Scott added.

“All of we men here are from different neighborhoods, but we have formed a collective that is dedicated to one thing,” said Motivated 2 Help Others Executive Director Faheem Lejon Reese, who is dedicated to mentoring Richmond youth to help prevent gun violence, self-destructive behavior and delinquency. “We come as grown men to pass knowledge through our own experiences.”

Reese noted subsequent community forums will occur in January or February 2022.

“What is important here is we are preparing to bring both solutions and strategies to reach our youth,” Reese said. “Our collective will make a difference to bring a real change to the neighborhoods of Richmond. We can and will promote positive change to our kids and to show them they can and will do better in their lives.”