By Tasion Kwamilele
Picture at left, from top to bottom: Otheree Christian, Eleanor Thompson, Rev. George Brown; Therence James and Elder Thomas Harris; Charlene Harris and Rochell Monk; Rev. James Harris and Linsy Mayo; Elder James Jones, Elder & Mrs. Larry Lowe and Elder Anthony Jones; Center row, top to bottom: Rev. Henry C. Washington, Excutive Director OR; Belinda Lewis Blevins and Tamika Key; Joe Fisher and Lloyd Madden; At right, top to bottom: Jackie Thompson; Bishop Andre Jackson and Sabrina Saunders; Sister Jones and Regina Wakefield.
Longtime Richmond residents can attest to the downward spiral their city has undergone in last 20 years. Earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, three young men stormed into the New Gethsemane Church and began shooting, wounding two teenagers.
It is clear that Richmond needs to undergo a serious change.
Rev. Henry Washington, who has lived in Richmond his entire life, has always been an advocate for positive change in the community. Now, as newly appointed director of Operation Richmond, he plans to see that power is brought back to the people as they work together to “unite the moral voice of Richmond.”
Operation Richmond is based on the idea that by establishing working capital, city government, the police department and other community-based organizations will make Richmond residents more self-sufficient.
“The main goal is to drop the homicide rate down to zero,” said Rev. Washington.
“I know people will say that is unrealistic, but since last year that has been a 60 percent drop in Richmond’s homicide rate,” he said. “We – the community, the leaders, the officials – have been reactionary. We need to “pro-act,” so that we can really wrap our arms around the young men who are doing most of the violence.”
Operation Richmond was founded by J.W. Macklin of Hayward as a response to the church shooting. With a commitment to bring the community together, they implemented discussions, visited neighborhoods, and even organized a large rally from New Gethsemane Church to City Hall.
However, knowing that more work needed to be done, Operation Richmond has been going through intense planning meetings and workshops to not only outline the goals and objectives of the group but to also cement a plan of action.
“As a Richmond native who attended Richmond’s public schools all my life, I can see the disconnection between the adults and the youth,” Rev. Washington said. “It is this disconnection that leaves the adults just as much to blame as the youth committing the crimes. Why? It means that the elders have stopped leading and guiding the youth.”
Ultimately, Operation Richmond works to put the church back at the front of the civil rights movement, a movement that, more than race, is about the rights that we have as human beings.
“Forty-seven people were killed last year in Richmond, and that is unacceptable,” he said. “As a whole, society does not care, so this is the move that we have created to fight back and take charge. Community members have something to say, and unless this type of move takes place, policy movers will continue to do the same thing.”
For information about Operation Richmond, contact Rev. Henry Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org