By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond’s Soulful Softball Sunday is known for being about more than just softball—it’s also about strengthening community bonds by bringing people together. This truism was evident last weekend in San Pedro, when the team prevailed 42-35 to win the California Classic Softball Championship against Reclaiming America’s Communities through Empowerment (RACE)—an organization that aims to create a safe community for all and which counts former Crips gang members as its players.
RACE’s team, which has players originating from neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area known as Crips strongholds, is promoting peaceful coexistence on field among former gang rivals, in turn, ‘driving home’ the notion that if they can work their differences out on the diamond, they can do it back at home too.
“By them playing ball, it’s stemmed the tide of violence in their neighborhoods by 39 percent,” said Alamo Brown, founder of Soulful Softball Sunday and RACE ambassador.
The event, attended by a robust crowd of 500 spectators, was hosted by both RACE and A Better LA, a like-minded organization founded by Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll with a mission to “support community based solutions to restore peace, save lives and link individuals in the inner city to resources they need to thrive,” per its website.
The event hosts chartered a bus for Soulful Softball Sunday, which brought 12 players from Richmond down to San Pedro in Southern California to defend their 2019 championship. After a pandemic pause, the Richmond team was only too happy to bring home the trophy again this year. Alamo Brown said that next year the teams, with missions that are so closely aligned, will compete again at Nicholl Park in Richmond.
“When we talk about bringing neighborhoods together and organizing events so that we can all have things to do, it’s paramount that we…show other folks how to duplicate what we’ve been doing,” said Alamo Brown about why—aside from winning the championship—the event was particularly meaningful to the team.
Another significant moment during the event happened when the family of Melvin Stewart was honored with a special certificate from Rep. Mark DeSaulnier that was presented by Alamo Brown. Stewart was a Richmond man and avid Soulful Softball Sunday supporter who was found fatally shot in his vehicle last month.