Diversity celebrated with flag raisings across West Contra Costa County

Diversity celebrated with flag-raisings across West Contra Costa County
Photo of diversity flags raised at City Hall (bottom two flags) credited to Mike Kinney.

A Finder.com study of 209 U.S. cities found Richmond to be the most diverse of them all. Diversity is a badge of honor in the local community, as evidenced by the many flag-raisings around town this month.

On Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt helped raise flags at City Hall in an annual commemoration of Juneteenth, LGBTQ+ Pride Month and Immigrant Heritage Month. This coming Tuesday, the City Council will proclaim June as “Diversity Celebration Month” in the city.

“The City of Richmond celebrates and supports the great diversity of its residents, an essential cornerstone of a dynamic and prosperous society that sustains local economies, creates unique and prosperous communities, promotes social inclusion, and encourages cultural exchange by bringing people together from different backgrounds,” according to the city.

Richmond isn’t the only city raising flags to promote diversity. Last month, the San Pablo City Council voted to fly the commemorative Pride flag at its Civic Center for the month of June. In Pinole, the Pride flag is being flown in front of the Fire Station and City Hall. Hercules, meanwhile, will raise the PanAfrican flag from June 17 through June 24 to commemorate Juneteenth for the first time in city history.

Local governments aren’t alone in celebrating diversity in this way. On Wednesday, the Chevron Richmond PRIDE Employee Network led its annual raising of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag at the Richmond Refinery.

The Chevron Richmond PRIDE Employee Network leads the raising of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag at the Richmond Refinery on Wednesday, June 1.

In addition, the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network holds annual Black History Awareness celebrations in June that aim to honor the contributions of past and present African Americans. The event further aims to enrich the futures of local youth through college scholarships. 

Diversity is celebrated and supported throughout the year at Chevron Richmond, in part through these company-funded employee networks that represent and promote the wide variety of backgrounds of the people who work there. 

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia also doesn’t wait until June to celebrate diversity. The Pride flag flies above his county office “every day of the year to show that we stand with our LGBTQ+ community for equality, equity and justice,” Gioia said.

Mayor Butt says having and celebrating diversity emboldens communities. There’s evidence to prove it, he said.

“Several years ago the Mayor’s Office did a branding and marketing study,” the mayor said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “One of the things we found out in that study, is one of the main reasons that people in other parts of the Bay Area would favorably consider moving to Richmond is they knew in Richmond they could find people who looked like them and they would feel comfortable here. So there are a lot of advantages to being a diverse city and we are celebrating it here today.” 

This month’s diversity celebrations in Richmond will be particularly special, in part due to the easing of pandemic restrictions. The annual Juneteenth parade and celebration, scheduled for Saturday, June 18 at Nicholl Park, will be extra colorful and meaningful this year due to the completion of the Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural at S. 37th Street.

The parade that kicks off the annual Juneteenth event in Richmond passes through the underpass en route to the festival in Nicholl Park each June.

So what are these diversity celebrations all about? As concisely stated by Richmond city officials, “Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865,
signifying the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the
Confederacy more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.”

Meanwhile, Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall riots against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in the Manhattan borough of New York City on June 28, 1969, an event seen as a pivotal moment for gay rights. 

Finally, Immigrant Heritage Month commemorates monumental contributions immigrants have made in the city and beyond. At Wednesday’s ceremony at Richmond City Hall, Yenny Garcia from the Latina Center recited a powerful poem from the famous Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco that aptly honored the immigrant legacy in the U.S.

Mike Kinney contributed to this report