Getting to know Richmond, a life time experience.

I get up early, because I need at least one hour and a half to make it there.

My bags are carefully prepared, exactly what I need, no more, because if I loose something I don’t want to loose it all.

Depending on the timing I will need two or three different trains. N-Judah, jump in and jump out at embarcadero; Bart train one, jump in and jump out at 19th avenue; Bart train two, jump in and jump out once I get there. At this point I am so used to the transitions and the timings that I can almost jump from one train to the other like locals do.

I should mention how much I love using public transport. The kind of people I have seen! Today, this guy was sitting next to me with his instrument. He looked mad. Maybe they got on a fight.

“Ashby station,” I’m getting close… “El Cerrito del Norte,” I’m in the neighborhood… “Richmond station, this train is now out of service,” I’m here.

I step out to a clean and solitary Bart station in the heart of the city.

Little has changed since I first came here three months ago… The Jehovah’s witnesses are still there, still displaying their small books in the cold cement bench inside the station.

There’s always representation of the homeless/drug addict community, but I must confessed I never saw the 32-cents lady again. Maybe she got her cash an fled the city.

The Spanish sounds mixed with the mispronunciation of English is also there.

City Hall… so many times I had to come here!

Again, it feels like home, but after so many visits in only 15 weeks, it has turned into a new home.

Despite the feeling of familiarity, this new home is different because it has gone and it is going through a lot that is new for me.

When you think about it, Richmond is not that big. It only has 100,000 inhabitants and even though it looked really big on the map, I have discovered that with one hour between appointments I can actually walk from one corner to the other (there is no better gym)

But this small city has the problems of a metropolis: wealthy industry mixed with extreme poverty; violence mixed with faith and church; black mixed with white, mixed with brown, mix with yellow.

Reporting about this city has been a wonderfully challenging experience.

The challenge of telling stories with words has always been there, but doing so about Richmond has been wonderful because it gave me the opportunity to use my bilingual skills, it kept me close to the issues I care to report about, and it pushed my sixth sense to develop even more, always asking myself, where’s the story? Where’s the danger? Where’s the Bart station again?

I have met amazing people in the process. From my editor at the Pulse, Malcolm Marshall, who’s been an unconditional supporter, to former drug-dealing young men that are trying to make their life a more productive one, for them and their city.

There are so many people in this city doing good that I think is really sad how only the bad some people do gets out to the world.

That is why my reporting talked mostly about the good and not the bad: Mrs Bennie, 23rd Street, Cease Fire program, young poets, proud police officers.

But I also got to see the consequences of the bad by reporting about the Grisby Case.

Many fathers and sons have been lost in this city. They pain is strong and hard to let go. A wall with photos and trophies from Grisby’s and Bell’s football championship.

It is so sad to see two young lives wasted: Gene Grisby died at 16-years-old just because he was born in a particular neighborhood and that day he walked to the gym. Tyris Franklin was found guilty of first degree murder and on May 25 he will hear his sentence, which could go from 50 years to a life in prison.

Lately I met six people that shine. They have been giving without reserve to the city for many years and the city wanted to honor them for it, they are the winners of the 2012 Distinguished Service Awards.

Allow me to introduce you…

Bea Roberson posses for a photo outside of City Hall at Richmond on Friday, April 27, 2012. Roberson received the 2012 Distinguished Service Award in the special category for her service to the city of Richmond for decades. Roberson is the president of the Richmond Neighborhood City Counsel, the Chairman of the Police Commission, treasurer of the Richmond and El Cerrito Fire and Police Holiday Program, member of the Crime Prevention Board, logistic chair of the June 10 celebrations and the Home Front Festival, among others. Roberson moved to Richmond from Oklahoma in 1964. “€œI need to go back to work to get a vacation,” said Roberson when she talked about how busy she is.

Bradley Blake posses for a portrait at the Career Center at Richmond High School on Thursday May 3, 2012. Blake received the Distinguished Service Award in the Education category for his service to the city of Richmond for creating “College is Real.” College is Real gives kids from the the poorest areas the chance to think about and/or consider going to college, and if they chose to go to college they are shown the way.

Isela Gonzales poses for a photo at Nevin Park on Tuesday May 1, 2012. Gonzales received the 2012 Distinguished Service Award in the Public Safety category for her service to the city of Richmond for the past five years. The 35-year-old woman native from Mexico is the Co-Chair for Dinner Dialogue, the representative of the voice of the Latino community. She has participated in many Iron Triangle community organized events, including the street clean up of 7th, 8th and 9th street.

Cameron J. Williams posses for a portrait at the Center for Human Development youth community garden in North Richmond on Wednesday May 16, 2012. Williams received the Distinguished Service Award in the City Beautification category for his service to the city of Richmond for the past 10 years as a volunteer at Teens Wiping Away Stereotypes (TWAS). Cameron has work in several projects, mostly in community sustainability and improving the physical appearance of North Richmond, like the community garden, the 100 Community Bricks, and leading a petition against developers building condos and houses on Breuner Marsh, which is a local regional park and home to several migrating birds.

Jan Schilling posses for a portrait at Richmond Veteran’s Hall on Friday May 5, 2012. Schilling received the Distinguished Service Award in the Health and Wellness category for his service to the city of Richmond for the past six years. Schilling is the volunteer Executive Director and founder of Weight of life, a program for the under-served community in Richmond where residents have access to a high-quality, culturally appropriate, low-cost way to engage in vigorous physical activity, learn about nutrition, eat nutritious foods, and support each other along the way.

Goshi Kogure posses for a portrait at Richmond Art Center on Thursday May 3, 2012. Kogure received the Distinguished Service Award in the Arts category for his service to the city of Richmond for the past two years. Kogure takes care of the bones of the Art Center by vacuuming, light plumbing, cleaning bathrooms, gardening, mopping, dusting, and others. He also trains and supervises community service workers.

Reporting from and about Richmond in the past 16 weeks improved my hearing and note taking skills, it exercised my capacity to see and dig for stories and it reminded me that no matter where you come from and where you are going to, humans are humans, and we all share the same desires, the same hopes, the same fears and the same needs, whether we externalize them in Spanish or English.

Richmond has help me become a better journalist, a decent writer and a more compassionate person.

Oh! and it also help me gain a couple of pounds! The Mexican food was amazing!

At Pepito’s Deli having a quesadilla today, Wednesday May 16, 2012.

In Richmond, a Murder Trial Begins and a Father Copes With Loss

RICHMOND, Calif. — Terry Bell has the perfect explanation for what happened to his son. “He was at the right place at the wrong time,” Bell said. “It was just timing. He walked out and here they come.”

Gene Deshawn Grisby, Bell’s eldest son, was shot and killed on Monday, January 10, 2011, outside his grandmother’s house at Crescent Park in Richmond. Grisby, 16, who lived with his grandmother and was under full custody of his dad, was on his way to the gym.

According to Bell, Grisby was an “average” 16-year-old kid who maintained a 2.0 GPA in school in order to keep playing football on the El Cerrito High School varsity team.

Bell, a carpenter, pushed his son to do better than him. “I had problems with him at school,” he said, talking about Grisby’s grades. “When he started to play football, he listened.”

As a father Bell was strict, always making sure Grisby was staying out of trouble and improving in school. “I’m the police,” Bell would say to others in the neighborhood. “If you see my son doing anything, you call me.”

And so it was the week before the shooting. Bell received a phone call from a teacher saying Grisby wasn’t paying attention in class. So Bell grounded Grisby for the weekend, and as the rules went, he was not allowed to leave the house until Bell got a phone call from the school saying things had improved.

That weekend, Grisby stayed inside his grandmother’s house. He did his laundry and re-arranged his closet. On Monday morning Bell drove Grisby to school, as usual, but Grisby came back early when there was a big fight at El Cerrito High School and all the students were sent home.

Dianne McAdoo, 57, Bell’s mother and Grisby’s grandmother, said her son kept Grisby on a “short rope.” Being a grandmother, McAdoo gave Bell a hard time for being so strict to such “a sweet little boy.”

Earlier on that fateful Monday, Grisby had asked his dad for a truce. He wanted to go train at the gym, to get an early start for the football season. Bell agreed.

“Unfortunately, the one time he softened up, [the shooting] would happen,” McAdoo said.

Bell puts some blame on the economic recession for what happened to his son. Unemployed since 2009, Bell had wanted to move away from Crescent Park, but couldn’t muster up the money to relocate his family. “We was just going to finish school here,” Bell said. “Once you graduate then we’ll go somewhere else, to go to junior college or something,” he recalled telling his son.

“I didn’t want to go far away, just to the other side of the freeway,” Bell added. “Now I want to get [my family] far away from here.”

Bell was raised in Crescent Park, a few doors down from where his mother lives now. He remembers the 90’s as a more dangerous time, with more shootings.

“What’s different now is that anyone that lives in Crescent Park could be shot,” Bell said. “I (thought I) had seen it all, until I saw this.”

Teenage Vendetta

Tyris Franklin, 16, was charged with murder plus enhancements for the use of a gun in Grisby’s killing, and will be tried and prosecuted as an adult. The trial against him began on Monday, April 23 at the Contra Costa Courthouse in Martinez.

Franklin does not deny he killed Grisby, although his defense attorney, Elizabeth Harrigan, is arguing for the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.  She described her client as a victim whose actions did not amount to “cold blooded murder.”

In her opening statements, Harrigan said that Franklin had an ongoing fight with a “mini-mob” in Crescent Park where Grisby lived, and he felt threatened. That morning, Franklin’s 12 year-old brother, Terrell Franklin, was allegedly attacked by the Crescent Park “mini-mob.” When Franklin received a phone call from his brother telling him what had happened, he decided to go to Crescent Park and asked Jean Pierre Fordjour, 19, to drive him there. When they arrived, Franklin, Fordjour and three other passengers saw Grisby walking on the side of an apartment building, and Franklin decided to step out and confront him.

According to Bell, Grisby and Franklin had been in a fight when they were in the 8th grade, but he couldn’t recall anything else ever happening between the two young men.

“It could have been any kid,” Bell said.

One year and three months have passed since Grisby’s murder. Bell deals with the pain by spending four hours a day at the gym, but said he still has a hard time finding forgiveness for Franklin.

“My anger has shifted to the parents,” Bell added. “What was his parents doing? Where were they?”

Franklin lived very close to Grisby’s home in Crescent Park. Bell said he wishes he knew Franklin had a problem with Grisby, so he could have knocked on his door and tried to find a solution that didn’t involve a gun.

“I got boxing gloves,” Bell said. “Those guys, they could have put on boxing gloves, if you got a problem. But (they chose to) bring a gun.”

——

Story published at New America Media and the Richmond Pulse.

A visit to Terry Bell, Gene Deshawn Grisby’s dad.

Terry Bell, 41, father of Gene Deshawn Grisby, at Bell's mother house, Dianne McAdoo. Gene Grisby was killed outside McAdoo house on January 10, 2011. A wall with photos and trophies from Grisby's and Bell's football achievements.

A wall with photos and trophies from Grisby’s and Bell’s football accomplishments. Interview with Terry Bell, 41, father of Gene Deshawn Grisby, at Bell’s mother house, Dianne McAdoo, 57. Gene Grisby was killed outside McAdoo house on January 10, 2011.

Gene Grisby was walking out of his grandmother house to go to the gym. When he reached the sidewalk, Tyre Franklin stepped off the car. Grisby try to go back to the house and Franklin started shooting at him. Several bullets hit the house. Grisby was shot in his arm and leg, first, then he was crawling to get inside the house when a bullet enter his body on the side. Grisby made it inside the house and died at his grandmother feet.

McAdoo covered one bullet whole with flowers because she doesn't want to see the whole every day.

Bell wears Grisby's school ID every day.

After the crime, school friends and classmates made a book with messages for Grisby and his family.

Residential Burglaries in Central Richmond – Map

A total of 27 residential burglaries in Central Richmond were reported by the Richmond Police Department’s monthly Crime Statistics Report for the month of March 2012.
The report doesn’t show locations of the crimes, but using Crime Mapping, most of those burglaries where located and placed in this map.
Burglaries and car thefts are one of the communities major worries.

Deshawn Grisby’s murder case – so far

It was 3:35pm on Monday January 10, 2011. Deshawn Grisby, 16, walked out of his grandmother house, at 4026 Fleming Ave in Richmond, to find Tyris Franklin, 16, stepping off Jean Pierre Fordjour’s car, 19, with a .22 caliber gun in his hoody’s pocket.

Franklin allegedly shot Grisby in the chest and killed him.

Fordjour allegedly drove Franklin and another 16-year-old away from the scene.

Witnesses gave police the description and licence plate of the car. At 5:30 that afternoon, police stopped the car at South 52nd Street and Potrero Avenue and detained the three young men.

Tyris Franklin, 16-year-old Richmond resident and Jean Pierre Fordjour, 19-year-old Suisun City resident, were both charged with murder with enhancements for the use of a gun. Franklin, the alleged shooter, has been charged as an adult. The third person in the car, also a 16-year-old man, was not charged and is considered a witness in the case.

Both Franklin and Fordjour pleaded not guilty.

They stood in front of Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Nancy Davis Stark for a preliminary hearing on February 22, 2011. After hearing allegations from the prosecution and the defense attorneys, Stark found sufficient evidence to hold both defendants to stand trial on the charges.

The murder trial starts Monday April 23 at 9 a.m.

More information to come.

Mrs Bennie (with corrections)

Last week I payed my last visit to Mrs Bennie Lois Clark Singleton. I wanted to take a good portrait of her, but she was, once more, very shy and only let me do "click" five times in the same spot... But I got a photo to accompany the story... here is the final copy of it.

Bennie Singleton quietly entered Richmond’s Garden of Peace Ministries Church looking for other night walkers. This was Singleton’s sixth night walk, and even though family was waiting for her, she just had to come and do her walk.

Since it’s beginning over a year ago, the 78-year-old grandmother has been part of Cease Fire, a program where community, clergy and police work together to stop violence, especially gun-violence, in Richmond. Their main activity is a Friday night walk through problematic areas of Richmond, reaching out to young people and community members.

“We are tired of going to funerals,” Singleton said. “We are tired of children killing each other.”

This particular Friday, the cease fire night-walkers went to Pullman Point, a townhouse-style apartment complex in central Richmond that has a history of violence and shootings.

Once at Pullman Point, the night-walkers covered the entire grounds lined-up in pairs. It was a quiet night and only a few people were out on the sidewalks, but those the group encountered were given a few words and literature about the program.

Singleton was very quiet on this night, maybe because she knew she was observed and she likes  anonymity. Still the entire time she held those cease fire flyers close to her heart and walked strong and steady in the line.

“I don’t really like people to know what I’m doing,  I get embarrassed if people give me a compliment,” she said. “I like to do things in the background.”

Nonetheless, like any firstborn, she has the character to act and lead when needed.

“I wish there were a lot more Bennies in the city because the city would already be a better place,” said Rev. Eugene Jackson, organizer at Contra Costa Interfaith Community Organization (CCISCO) and one of the leaders of Cease Fire. “She represents the fact that even though you are a senior you do not stop service; she has place and purpose.”

According to Jackson, Singleton is an encouragement to young people because senior citizens like her have a historical perspective of Richmond and they can tell how the community wasn’t always involved in negative activities.

BORN IN THE SOUTH.

Singleton introduces herself as Bennie Lois Clark Singleton. Clark is her parents’ last name.

“I use it now, more than anything, because the Clark is responsible for what I am,” she said. “They made me who I am.”

Singleton was born in Louisville,  Ark. in 1934. During War World II her parents were recruited to work at the Shipyards in Richmond, so her family moved to California when she was around seven years old.

In the mid 1940s Richmond was a racist town, Singleton remembers seeing the Ku Klux Klan marching down McDonald Avenue. But coming from a segregated south, she liked Richmond because she could attend an integrated school.

“I really liked that,” she said, “[because] whatever they taught those white kids in that class I could learn it. They couldn’t exclude me. They did not take them in the corner and say this is for you.”

Even though the schools were integrated, they still tried to direct African-American children to concentrate their education on manual crafts like sewing or cooking. But Singleton came from a family that valued education and she managed to force the school to give her a college-preparating education.

“[My father] was a strict disciplinarian who pushed us to get our education,” said Singleton about her father, Benjamin F. Clark Senior.

Singleton started working at the age of 17 at the U.S. Navy as a clerk. She got married a year later and had her first child at 19 years old. A life of family and work distracted her from studying. However, when her father started attending night school, she also went to night school and graduated from Contra Costa College. “Because that man is not going to outdo me,” she said about her father.

“My dad always had us in situations where we were just people with other people. We always lived in a mixed neighborhood,” Singleton said. “I have never felt inferior to anybody because of my color.”

That is why, when Singleton and her husband, James Singleton, were going to buy a house in Richmond, and they were told that only whites could buy the house, they decided to leave for Los Angeles. “It was worse than Richmond,” she said of L.A. It took the family 10 years to come back to what she calls home.

In 1971 the Singletons, now with three children, bought a house at Atchison Village, where Singleton still lives. Her husband died that same year.

Singleton continued working until 1997, when she retired from the banking industry. Today her family has grown and she has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

FAMILY OF SERVICE

“At his funeral I found out all the things that he was doing,” said Singleton about her father.

Growing up, Benjamin F. Clark Senior was a loving but strict father who would take his six children to the movie theater every weekend to see a western, although he would fall asleep. “My dad goes to sleep everywhere,” said Singleton, “any place.”

His family never realized that the tired dad was very busy helping out others and not only working hard jobs like a welder, owner of a grocery store, driver. Clark was also a man of service.

According to Singleton, her father was always involved in the civil rights movement. He helped start and manage the Richmond farmer’s market, he fought for schools and education codes in Richmond and after he retired he would take care of senior citizens and sick people, visiting them, feeding them and cutting their hair.

“I see myself in him,” she said.

“I see a need and I just do it,” Singleton said. “I don’t like wasting time… If I’m not gonna do anything that’s fine, I’m not wasting time. I’m just timing out.”

LIFE OF SERVICE

Singleton’s more than 30 years of work in banking were enjoyable because she loves numbers, but also because through her job she could help people. When the job stopped allowing her to help others, she decided to retire.

But she could not stop being productive, so she started looking for programs to volunteer.

Around the year 2000 she volunteered at the Literacy for Every Adult Program, but discovered that teaching was not her strongest ability. Then she decided to help improve her neighborhood,  Atchison Village and the Iron Triangle.

At the time, on McDonald Avenue, streets after 8th Street weren’t been cleaned, and city property like the Nevin Community Center and Park were taken by criminality and danger.

Singleton and other neighbors got organized and started attending city counsel meetings and demanding that the city clean up these neighborhoods.

“What do you mean no street sweeping? What do you mean you can’t ticket the cars?” Singleton remembered her reactions to the city’s justifications. “We would go up there en-masse.”

After a lot of pressure, the city finally took them seriously. They got their streets clean and Nevil Community Center back from drug dealers and drug addicts.

“It takes a lot of people concerned enough to do something,” Singleton said.

Richard Boyd moved to Richmond six years ago, and immediately had to get involved in his community because there was too much violence on his block. He met Singleton at an Atchison Village neighborhood counsel meeting, and she got him involved at CCISCO where he works as a community organizer.

“Bennie is by the book. When we get off the track she pulls us back, she keeps us focused,” Boyd said. “When  she is around we listen.”

Today, Singleton keeps on helping community-organized programs, dedicating almost half of her week to two main programs: Cease Fire and Safe Return.

Cease Fire is the program to which she dedicates more time and energy. “These  are children starting out,” she said. “They still can make choices and decisions that can alter their lives”

When she walks on the streets of Richmond with the other participants, she said she approached the young people as a grandmother or an aunt.

“I speak to them with respect,” she said, “and if they need a hug, I give them a hug.”

Safe Return is a program organized by CCISCO, the Pacific Institute and the Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety. The program aims to help parolees find their way back in to the community.

As a civilian volunteer, Singleton helps the organizers decide what projects are fair to both the parolees and any regular citizen. She thinks that parolees need help because the legal system is not built to give them opportunities once they have served their sentence. But she thinks it is not fair to give them special treatment that could affect opportunities for people who have never brake the law.

Laverne Vaughn works at CCISCO and is part of the Safe Return team. She said Singleton is the big mama of the program.

“She helps in a lot of ways by giving us a different perspective or a way to deal with some of the political stuff we are working on,” she said. “She tells us what we have done well and gives us guidance and corrections.”

According to Vaughn, the team values Singleton’s opinion because she has been in the community for a long time but especially because she is an active member of it.

At 78, Singleton has one bit of advice for young adults. “Education is the key to everything,” she said. “Once you have it up [in your brain] nobody can take it from you and they will pay you for it if they need it.”

She also has one wish for them. “I hope [young people] will see [Richmond] as the Richmond I grew up in,” she said, “where people trusted each other and you could go out all over it.”

Singleton thinks that her hopes are possible because in the end “there are more good people in Richmond than there are bad people.”

23rd Street, Epicenter of Growing Latino Population in Richmond

Harlem Masters, an African-American who moved to Richmond in 2005, is employed as a crossing guard at the increasingly busy intersection of 23rd Street and Clinton Avenue. “They call this street Little Mexico,” said Masters, as he helped a couple of Latino
children make their way safely across the street.

This part of Richmond was not always known as Little Mexico. In fact, it is a relatively recent phenomenon that highlights just how rapidly the racial and ethnic makeup of the city has changed.

Today, Latinos are the largest ethnic group in Richmond at 39.5 percent of the total population, followed by Caucasians (31.4 percent) and African-Americans (26.6 percent), according to 2010 census figures. Just twelve years ago, however, census numbers told a different story. In 2000, African Americans were the largest racial group in the city at 36.1 percent, followed by Latinos (26.5 percent) and Caucasians (21.4 percent).

Richmond’s burgeoning Latino community has grown around the 23rd Street business district, and rarely has that community been more on display in recent years than at the city’s annual Cinco de Mayo festival.

Not surprisingly, as the annual festival approaches, the 23rd Street Merchants Association is playing a lead organizing role. The association was founded in 2007, when 15 Latino merchants took over planning of the festival. Today, there are more than 300 businesses associated, all with one goal in mind: to make Cinco de Mayo a family-oriented celebration of Latino culture.

Rafael Madrigal, president of the association, was raised in Richmond and recalls being one of only a handful of Latinos in his neighborhood. But now, he said, “23rd Street is the Latino hub of Richmond, like Fruitvale is for Oakland and the Mission is for San Francisco.”

Rochelle Monk from the city manager’s office says the way the association took over the celebration is a “fine example” of how community organizations can take ownership of an event and make it successful. City budget cuts, said Monk, have made it harder to finance events like Cinco de Mayo, and she doubts the celebration would exist at all if it weren’t for community groups like the Merchant’s Association.

Before the association took over the festival, said Monk, Richmond’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations were marred by vandalism. Partiers damaged cars and storefronts, and many of those arrested were not even from Richmond.

Rigoberto Mendoza, owner of “Rigo’s Auto Sales” on 23rd Street and one of the founders of the association, remembers how the Cinco de Mayo celebrations of 8 to 9 years ago would inevitably end with confrontations between festival-goers and police.

That all stopped, said Mendoza, when the 23rd Street Merchant’s Association got involved. “When businessmen from (23rd Street) got in between the community and the police, the relationship improved,” Mendoza said.

Sergio Rios, owner of Bob’s Cleaners on 23rd Street, is also a founding member of the association. He said the merchants decided to start patrolling the streets a couple of days before and after May 5, asking people to behave and keep the festival a family-friendly event.

Judging by the numbers, the association’s efforts have led to not only a safer Cinco de Mayo, but a more popular festival as well. In 2007, the first year Cinco de Mayo was officially organized by the association, roughly 6,000 people attended. By 2011 that
number had reached 100,000 participants.

“We put on the biggest party in the state, and we don’t charge (an entry fee),” Madrigal said.

Although Latino business owners make up a majority in the merchant’s association and on 23rd street, they are not the only members. According to Madrigal, between 30-35 percent of the members are comprised of African-American, Asian and Caucasian business owners.

Yvonne Boswell is an African-American born and raised in Richmond, and the director of “Happy Brown Bear’s Preschool/Daycare” on 23rd Street and Gaynor Avenue, where she’s worked for the past 20 years. Boswell is an association member, and said she has always felt welcome at the meetings, even though she doesn’t speak Spanish.

Hermin Dowe, originally from Jamaica, operates a law firm on San Pablo Ave. A member of the association for the last five years, Dowe said it’s been a place for her to meet a nice group of people from the community and build her business network.

Eloisa F. Martinez, also known as Lilly, was the first to open a Spanish-Speaking beauty salon on 23rd Street, over 20 years ago. When she first came to Richmond there were only a few other businesses owned by Latinos, she said. Today, Martinez said her
business has improved due to growing number of Latinos in the area.

Despite the better business, Martinez is not without her concerns. “What we don’t like is that there are too many prostitutes and there are a few naughty young people that do graffiti,” she said, as she looked at the recently installed windows on her storefront.
Someone had scratched the letters “BLAH” onto each window panel.

Norberto Ruiz, owner of Discolandia and an original association member, shares Martinez’s concerns. “We used to close at 9pm, but now we close the store at 8pm,” said Ruiz. “People are afraid to come out at night because of the danger brought by the
prostitution,” he added.

According to Ruiz, the problem has gotten worse in the past two years. He said he would like to see the police address the prostitution issue more actively, and hopes the 23rd Street Merchants Association can also be involved in solving the problem.

______________________

This article started as “STREET1″ and after a lot of editing and a lot of other calls and interviews, it turned into this… It will be published in the print edition of the Richmond Pulse in a couple of weeks, with its translation in Spanish that I did too…