North Richmond Story

Produced by local resident Doug Harris, KCRT has three of the documentary series exploring the history and region of North Richmond, a section of Richmond, CA.

An Exploration of Our History:
North Richmond Part II

The documentary chronicles North Richmond ’s history from the end of World War II through the beginning of the 1960’s.

During this period, the small community of North Richmond maintained a reputation throughout the Bay Area as an entertainment hot-bed for blues musicians who performed in the various night clubs in the community ’s black business district. The documentary film profiles the lives of some senior residents who share their fond memories of that era. 

The film’s segments include:

• The American Friends Service Committee’s early work in the community that led to the establishment of the North Richmond Neighborhood House (social services agency);

• The opening of West Contra Costa College (Kaiser Shipyards), which enabled many North Richmond residents an opportunity to pursue higher education;

• The establishment of the Parchester Village subdivision which enabled blacks their first opportunity to purchase new homes during the period of restrictive covenants throughout the Bay Area; and

• The positive impact of Shields-Reid Park on the Richmond community at-large.

The film also profiles the lives of several legendary North Richmond icons including: businesswoman Minnie Lou Nichols (restaurant/nightclub owner) and famous Bay Area radio disc jockey Ollie Freeman (owner of Jazzland Records).

A lengthy portion of the film focuses on the impact that recreation director/youth advocate Charlie Reid of Shields-Reid Park had on the kids of the community. Primary research for the film series was conducted at the Richmond Public Library and from the writing of Dr.
Shirley Ann Moore, professor of history at California State University at Sacramento, and author of “To Place Our Deeds ” about the history of African-Americans in Richmond, California, from 1900-1963.

The 58-minute film is a product of the Athletes United for Peace (AUP) Digital Technology Academy ’s North Richmond Teen Video Project. The documentary film was the final project of 11 North Richmond teens that participated in the 10-week academy (digital video training program) during the summer of 2000.The ongoing media arts program was developed in 1997 by AUP, to expose disadvantaged youth to the ever-growing field of digital video production. Participants received training in the areas of: script writing, camera operation, lighting and audio and non-linear desktop editing.  At the conclusion of each training session, teens are assembled into a production crew and team up to work as production assistants on the community history film projects.

An Exploration of Our History:
North Richmond Part III

Building on the success of the documentary film series produced by Athletes United for Peace’s Digital Technology Academy in North Richmond, the latest chapter is a culmination of work from all three of the previous teen video project crews.  The project was developed by former City of Richmond employee Doug Harris, who is an award winning Bay Area documentary film producer.

The documentary begins with a review of Richmond during the boom years of WWII and how African Americans moved out west to seek employment in the Kaiser Shipyards.  During this era of segregation in the East Bay, blacks were relegated to live in the areas many government housing projects, and those that owned homes resided in the unincorporated community of North Richmond.

Through interviews conducted by the teen video crew, several historical accounts are told about the North Richmond community that include:The founding of North Richmond’s Neighborhood House, a social service agency that provided employment and training, health and youth services to the residents of the impoverished community.
 The first major protest by the Black Panther Party that was centered around a police brutality case which left a North Richmond residents fatally shot.  The situation led to a series of riots throughout the community and into downtown Richmond.
The racial tension that plagued Richmond Union High School in the 1960’s that ultimately led to organized and highly publicized protest by black students.
 How the Model Cities Program helped to build the community’s infrastructure with curbs, sidewalks and gutters, and ultimately led to the building of the City of Richmond’s Shields-Reid Community Center.
 The documentary ends with dialogue about the exodus of black leadership from the community in the early 1970’s signaling the beginning of a sharp decline in the quality of life for the residents.

Athletes United for Peace is working to produce the final chapter of the An Exploration of Our History series that will cover the history from 1970’s to the present.

North Richmond: Past Present and Future

Made with at-risk teens from North Richmond under Harris’ direction, the latest chapter of the documentary series depicts the resilience of residents who have faced down gun violence, the drug trade, chemical spills and refinery fires.