Dawn, a beloved mother, caregiver, and long-time YES participant, talked with Blanca, YES’s program director.

They talked about the love she has for her Richmond community and her journey with YES during the past 11 years.

Blanca: Dawn, do you remember what Richmond was like 20 years ago?

Dawn: Twenty years ago, there was a lot of stuff going on in Richmond. I never gave up on Richmond. I stayed here. This is where I was born and raised. Even though I lost a lot of family members to the violence, this is my home town. Richmond, California - I love it.

Blanca: What was life for you back then?

Dawn: In 1999, I was living in a 2-bedroom apartment. I was living with my five kids and my mother. We had some good times on 2nd street. Then we moved to 6th and Pennsylvania. The kids were going to Peres Elementary, and that’s when I became involved with YES, in 2008.

Blanca: Has your life changed because of your involvement with YES?

Dawn: Yes, it has changed a lot. I got more involved in the community. I got more involved with my kids, with their schooling and showing them different things in Richmond. Getting more involved, getting out and doing more in the community with different families, different cultures. 

Being a part of YES has changed me a lot because before, I wasn’t communicating with anybody, just dealing with my own family, my own race, not being a part of nothing. And just being in that box. I think I got myself out of that box. Things are a lot better than what they was. You all got me out of my comfort zone. Got me to talk, to get out and be part of the community. To get to know other families. To participate. I get along with my neighbors really good. You all have been a major impact in my life. Me and my kids.

What’s different for me now is that as far as my girls, they didn’t get caught up. Just keeping them focused, keeping myself focused, working, making sure they do what they’re supposed to do. And right now, the focus is on my grandkids: doing positive things with them, showing them that there is positive things that are going on in Richmond. We just have to get out and be with positive people, get out in the community and be part of this.

Demetria and Tana [YES staff members] helped me out a lot. When Demetria was with [YES], she encouraged me to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t have done, as far as speaking. And Tana really encouraged me a lot. She would call me and encourage me to come on and participate, come out to the community events. Both of them ladies played a major part in my life, me and my kids.

YES was there for me when I lost my momma. I was able to pick up my phone and call and talk to you about what was going on you all have just been a big part of my life. Through thick and thin. Through everything I was going through, I feel like you never judge me. You always say good things, encourage me and push me. You told me I could do it, and I like that. Before, I never would do this. I like coming out here [to Family Camp], I like doing this stuff with the kids. All these parks, I didn’t even know about them and they were here, in my own back yard.

Blanca: I’m glad we are able to be here for you and your family, Dawn. I get the feeling we are going to know each other for the rest of our lives. On another note, what’s your vision for YES and for Richmond, 20 years from now?

Dawn: My dream for my community: I would like peace, clean streets, all my neighbors, we all getting along, kids playing, just flowers, plants, everyone getting along, come outside - hey how you doing? A nice community, parks for kids to play in the neighborhood, not having to run if you hear gunshots. Looking out for one another, looking out for the kids. That’s what I want.