Good People, Bad Rap: A Day in North Richmond

Photo Essay, David Meza

I love North Richmond, my home. Diverse people. Churches and liquor stores. Project housing, empty lots, the Verde garden, the senior center. It’s taught me to be tough and to overcome through all of it. Just seeing people lose everything, over and over again.

The weather here is perfect almost all the time. It’s the perfect weather to grow vegetables and fruits. Avocado, watermelons, zucchini, purple tree collards… I’ve grown it all out here.

Yeah, there are some things I don’t like. I hate the amount of drugs out here and the bad rap that this area gets. But I love the family-oriented pockets of North Richmond where people that might not know each other intermingle. Asian, black, and Hispanic families cook and eat together and find a sense of community because that’s all we have. In North Richmond, we’re sectioned off from Richmond and San Pablo, and it’s not always a good thing to cross the borders.

As I was taking pictures in North Richmond recently, people stopped me to tell me, “Don’t make us look bad.” People don’t necessarily like being documented out here. They are wary of someone taking pictures because it could be used to incriminate them or seize their property. Or just to illustrate the usual bad news that gets said about North Richmond. Media people come here, takes pictures and portray North Richmond as an awful place where people do terrible things.

That’s the only time anyone cares to acknowledge that anything that happens here. The media doesn’t report on all the great little things, the donations, the sports games.

There are some awful things that happen here but it’s not an awful place. It’s just a tough situation. There are very few jobs here and it can be hard to be economically stable. People need help here and they don’t get it.

But it’s also a very open place to people of all backgrounds. Most people think it’s just African Americans and Latinos but I’ve met Filipinos, Indians and people from all over the world, just mingling. No one really cares where you’re from or what your race or ethnicity is. It’s not a big deal. People are just like, “We’re here and we’re gonna hang out. This is what we do.”

I haven’t seen that anywhere else.

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