Word spread quickly early Saturday throughout inner-city neighborhoods and beyond that Richmond’s “Ambassador of Compassion” was dead.
For more than 30 years, Alicia Rasin, known for her dreadlocks and rings on each finger, had supported grieving families who were touched by crime. They may have been victims or a relative may have been a perpetrator. It didn’t matter. Rasin was there to see them through.
“She was always helping people,” says Renard Harris, manager of Big Boy’s Soul Food, a restaurant that often catered meals at Rasin’s behest. “She’d arrange food as a repast after a funeral or sometimes she’d just come in and buy a meal for a family in need.”
Rasin created Citizens Against Crime, a group that helped communities become safer. She worked with governors, mayors, police, pastors and community leaders for years. U.S. Sen. and former Richmond Mayor Tim Kaine was so impressed with Rasin that he gave her the “Ambassador” moniker.
It wasn’t immediately disclosed why Rasin died, but she battled against cancer for years.
Rasin’s efforts at helping heal families wounded by crime has been recorded by Style since the 1980s.
In a 2010 cover story, Style described her making “the rounds in a turquoise Mazda Miata, on a sunny afternoon in Church Hill, taking drags from a Newport cigarette while she visits with families whose lives have been turned upside down by tragedy.”
She’d go to funerals and memorials, hugging those hurt by death in neighborhoods including Mosby Court and Church Hill. She would pick up a tattered prayerbook she held with her distinctively colored fingernails and read from it.
Some of her busiest periods were during the mid-'90s when murder rates as high as 161 in one year made Richmond one of the nation’s deadliest and bloodiest cities.
"She was a compassionate voice,” Mayor Dwight C. Jones said in a statement. “She was really a haven of peace for people who were inflicted with society's most violent actions and she represented comfort in a violent world. Richmond is sorely going to miss her touch.”