A gathering of Richmond public housing residents who seek solutions for issues ignored by those in power began with the lights off.
Bulbs dimmed midway through Charlene Harris' skit illustrating how the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority ignored her calls about electric-bill increases. Lighting a candle, she asked for help at the seventh annual meeting of RePHRAME, or Residents of Public Housing in Richmond Against Mass Evictions.
"I hate darkness," Harris told an estimated 100 people packed into the basement of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church. "I hope tonight we can get some clarity."
The campaign to raise the minimum wage and lingering problems with public transit received special focus at the forum, organized by housing advocate Lillie Estes. The GRTC Transit System's $53 million plan to establish a rapid bus line between Rocketts Landing and Willow Lawn received harsh criticism.
"How can you find the money to work on a new project when you can't pay for core services?" asked Montigue Magruder, a Richmond Transit Riders Union member. "The [bus rapid transit] was about money. It wasn't about people."
Estes said the group's next steps include canvassing GRTC's downtown transfer station and appearing at City Council and housing authority meetings to address issues.
"We're here to be intentional and deliberate on policy change," Estes said. "The government is not somebody else. The government is us. If we sit here and keep looking at somebody else to accomplish our goals, we're sitting on the sidelines."