Richards Prepares To Run For Council Seat
The defining moment in Donovan Richards’ life came in 2003, when his friend was shot and killed on a Jamaica street. The young man decided right then and there he would dedicate his life to public service to eradicate the kind of violence that ended his friend’s life.
“When I walked down the aisle during the funeral my inner voice told me, do something with your life to save another young man and make a difference in your community,” said Richards, during an interview in 2008.
A week later events began to fall into place. At a joint anti-violence meeting held by Mothers Against Guns and Councilman James Sanders Jr., Richards spoke about his friend and the violence that took him. Sanders gave him his business card and a few months later the 19-yearold was a member of the councilman’s staff. Eventually he moved up to district manager and now chief of staff.
Now Richards has announced he plans to run to replace his boss when Sanders is term-limited out in 2013.
This will be Richards’ second run for office.
In 2008 he announced he would run against the incumbent assemblyperson, Michele Titus, in the 31st Assembly District. Titus’ campaign challenged his petitions and the court ruled he did not have the 500 signatures needed to be on the ballot. This time Richards intends not to allow that to happen.
“I learned the importance of organization and a great deal of how the system works,” Richards recently told The Wave. “They say the only way to win it is to be in it and the experience of petitioning and speaking to voters was invaluable. I believe the experience from that race will help me to lay the groundwork for the City Council race.”
While Richards has been working on projects for Sanders, he has also done work on his own. He has worked with the youth council of the local NAACP, was the brain behind the annual Rockaway Walks program, and started the New Democratic Progressive Club. Among other things, last December the club promoted literacy by giving out more than 400 books to daycare centers and organizations throughout the peninsula.
His latest project is called Occupy Rockaway.
“The first place I‘m testing this pilot program is in the Ocean Bay/ Edgemere Houses,” said Richards, who – along with the Rockaway Youth Task Force – was scheduled to host a youth Town Hall meeting this past Wednesday. “The only way to rid our streets of youth violence is to involve the youth.”
He added, “My goal is to increase youth participation in all of our community centers by planning events and initiatives with our youth in the community. One of the biggest issues we have in Rockaway is that we are not providing enough positive outlets for our youth.”
Richards said he will “push for a gun buy back program” and introduce antiviolence initiatives.
He also says he will not back down no matter the issue or the person or group on the other side.
“I also believe people in the community are looking for someone with fresh ideas and who won’t be afraid to tackle difficult issues head on whether it’s challenging the mayor, or drug dealers in our community,” said Richards. “My experience of working in the halls of City Hall and the streets of the Rockaways for so many years gives me a huge advantage in knowing how to secure resources that will be beneficial for the Rockaway community. The truth is government can’t solve all the issues of the Rockaways without the help of the community.”
Richards added, “The days of treating the Rockaways like a third world country are gone.” He hopes to prove that he is the person that will keep “any agency or person who stands in the way of progress for our community” from succeeding.