A Real Richmond Success Story
Doria Robinson and Urban Tilth
Doria was born and educated in Richmond. Until age 13 she lived at 5th and Nevin. Drive-by shootings prompted her mother to seek a safer place in Richmond to raise young black children so they moved to 32nd street.
Doria grew up with a large extended church family on Richmond's South Side. Her grandfather, Elder Vernon V. Robinson, was the Pastor of Apostolic Temple of Truth Church on Ohio and South 13th.
Struggling with the public school system Doria went to many schools: Peres, Seaview, Wilson, Portola, Kennedy, Independent Study and finally Maybeck High where she graduated with honors. She graduated Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts where she worked on the school's organic farm and studied the environment, multimedia, and philosophy with a focus on Madhyamike Buddhism.
Eight years ago, after extensive travel to many countries, she returned to Richmond to work for the Watershed Project and Urban Creeks Council She became director of Urban Tilth in 2008.
Urban Tilth has become an important resource all over Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo giving technical assistance to various efforts at urban gardens, public schools, and three churches. The most developed gardens are Berryland and the Greenway Community Garden, on the Greenway at 6th. Edible Forest is now producing at 16th and the Greenway. Other projects are at Richmond High, North Richmond and AdamsCrest Farm in the Richmond Hills.
Less known than the gardens of Urban Tilth is the success in "Growing People". All of the staff of Urban Tilth come from Richmond or San Pablo. Under Doria's leadership the staff intentionally trains itself in the skills they need to take more responsibility. In addition to the technical knowledge required for farming and healthy food, staff members also learn project management, budgeting, how to read profit and loss statements, conflict resolution and public speaking.
Urban Tilth raises money from foundations and believes in paying staff a decent wage. "You cannot pay attention to improving yourself if you're struggling with how to get money to buy your food," Doria says. Typically people get involved with Urban Tilth by volunteering for specific projects, perhaps through one of the schools Urban Tilth works with. Many move into the paid summer apprenticeships and from there to the paid staff apprenticeships and then the full time staff. Senior staff like Jesse Alberto, Teresa Jimenez, Tania Pulido, Adam Boisvert and Sherman Dean take on whole projects and often represent Urban Tilth to funders or at out-of-area conferences because there is national interest the Urban Tilth programs.
This summer there will be 17 staff and 40 apprentices working on developing their leadership skills while they are improving the health of Richmond and beautifying the city.
Urban Tilth's work reaches out and brings together all races in Richmond while being sensitive to and supportive of cultural identities. It was a major force behind the Martin Luther King Day of Service on the Greenway in January and Caesar Chavez Celebration last month.
In early June reporters from KQED set up in a Laundromat on Macdonald to hear what the community thought. One thing they heard was that the media only covered negative events in Richmond. A reporter, Jon Brooks, invited the community to send him a few lines or paragraphs about what we felt was good in Richmond. A number of people responded. Here are a few that were copied to us.
Loads of positive things happen in Richmond all the time around three particular themes that come easily to mind (Surely there are more): its beauty, its history, and its diversity. Residents work diligently to preserve and expand Richmond's beauty, particularly that of our 32-mile bay front coast-line. We saved Point Molate from being obliterated into a Las Vegas-style casino. TRAC (Trails for Richmond Action Committee), mile-by-mile relentlessly stretches the Bay Trail.
Richmond: I’ve lived here for 23 years. I have a nice garden, pleasant neighbors, a view of the hills, decent swimming pools, walking distance to stores, 2 blocks to the San Pablo Avenue bus, a few minutes to BART, nobody complains about my pet chickens (no roosters) that give me eggs, my neighbors come from all parts of the globe. We have good street parking, and a great Art Center. I personally know many of the local politicians, business owners, teachers, staff at the local Kaiser medical center, life guards where I swim. I taught in this district for almost 30 years, run into my old students (not so old), their families, kids, grannies, and we are happy to see each other. Fruit trees thrive, the train stops here, the city supports art, many artists live and work here. Houses are affordable, we have an elected Green Mayor, and many folks challenge the status quo in an attempt to achieve a safer, healthier, more inclusive city where our diversity is respected, expected and appreciated. Many of us choose to live here, even came from somewhere else, and experience a certain amount of small town friendliness that one does not find in many other places.
I heard you were interested in hearing from Richmond residents about the positive aspects of our City.
What's good about Richmond:
Richmond is the Little City that Could. Its neighborhood councils, community organziations, and progressive city council have been reclaiming our city from the wealthy corporations and developers who used to treat it like a garbage dump. We are making our shorelines, hills, and community services open to everyone. It is a city that prides itself in diversity and fighting racism in all of its forms. Richmond does everything it can to fight the impacts of the disastrous national economy and reaches out to help those hardest hit. A program of community policing has reduced crime. The city succeeded in attracting LBNL to Richmond and the city has pioneered training programs to help residents get what jobs are available. Richmond is leading the way in challenging childhood obesity and diabetes that disproportionately hit our Black and Latino communities. It is a city that takes pride in its history and its future.