49ers announce RYSE Center as social justice grant recipient

49ers visit Richmond nonprofit to announce social justice grant partnership
All photos courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco 49ers lineman Spencer Burford (No. 71) and linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair (No. 51) and Marcelino McCrary-Ball (No. 40) stopped by the RYSE Center in Richmond on Tuesday, Sept. 13, to help cement a social justice grant partnership between the team and nonprofit.

RYSE is one of two nonprofits joining a cohort of Bay Area organizations that will receive a share of $500,000 in social justice grants this year from the 49ers.

RYSE, which recently expanded with the new 37,000 square foot RYSE Commons campus, was founded in 2008 in response to a string of homicides affecting youth in Richmond. The nonprofit supports youth ages 13 to 21, including those in and out of school, LGBTQ, homeless, undocumented, foster and justice system involved children and young adults. 

RYSE will use the 49ers grant to “reduce racial and ethnic disparities in Contra Costa County, reduce the average rate of youth incarcerated in Contra Costa County and ensure the systems and adults responsible create a safe, loving, welcoming, and responsive environment,” according to the 49ers.

In 2020, the 49ers issued an initial $1 million in grants to 10 Bay Area and California-based social justice organizations, then announced an extension of the grant program to commit $5 million over 10 years focusing on advancing racial equality in policing, ending mass incarceration and educational and economic advancement for young black people.

The 49ers and its Black Employee Resource Group recently completed its annual review of requests for proposals from nonprofits. The final election of funds is determined by the 49ers representatives on the Players Social Justice Council, which includes Al-Shaair, Arik Armstead, Oren Burks, Trey Lance, Emmanuel Moseley and Taybor Pepper.

RYSE, Inc. and Urban Ed Academy were selected out of a pool of grant applicants along with the five returning organizations: Californians for Safety and Justice, Dream.Org, Operation HOPE, San Jose African American Community Service Agency, and Student Program for Academic & Athletic Transitioning (SPAAT).

During their visit to RYSE Tuesday, Al-Shaair, Burford, and McCrary-Ball connected with Jonathan Long, an “exceptionally talented” defensive tackle and offensive lineman at Kennedy High, according to the Niners report on the visit. In addition to his ability on the field, Long is also a gifted producer and took time to show the 49ers players some of his beats in the music studio at the youth center.

“I’m trying to fix all the stuff at my school to make it a better place, and just bring fun back to our community.”

“I’m trying to fix all the stuff at my school to make it a better place, and just bring fun back to our community,” Long said.

McCrary-Ball spent some time working on artwork with some of the youth at RYSE. Burford chatted with community members, and all three players indulged in snow cones made on location at center. The Niners players also learned how to screen print shirts with Eddy Chacon, a lifelong 49ers fan and member of the community who grew up in the Richmond area.