“A message of hope must be instilled in everything we do.”
Earlier this year when we asked Linda Richardson, the president and CEO of Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation, how Philly nonprofits should respond to the uprising and the civil unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd, her thoughtful response ended with the words quoted above.
Now, the renowned 73-year-old nonprofit professional who spearheaded the effort to save North Philly’s Uptown Theater — among many other accomplishments — is gone. According to reports, she died unexpectedly Monday when a severe asthma attack threw her into cardiac arrest.
“Linda’s unrelenting work in North Philly kept Broad Street alive,” said Jean Hunt, a board member of the Bread & Roses Community Fund, whose association with Richardson was decades-long. “She was very important [to the community].”
Richardson was raised in North Philly, in a “big, very strong family of activists,” Hunt said. “Linda was the oldest in that family, and a leader. Her mother was a very powerful spokesperson for justice, so Linda was always there in the struggle, always active and organizing.”
Although Richardson is best known for her work to save the historic Art Deco theater on North Broad Street — which closed in 1978 but during its heyday hosted top Black performers and R&B acts — she was also very active in the reproductive justice movement when Hunt first met her in the 1970s.
Hunt recollected a recent gathering for the Women’s Medical Fund (WMF) where Richardson was on a panel: “There she was, still building alliances across networks and communities.”
“The WMF team had the privilege of meeting Linda last year and hear about her fight for reproductive justice before it was a coined term,” said Elicia Gonzales, the executive director of the WMF. “In the 1970s, she and other Black women organized Triple Jeopardy (named that because they were poor, Black, women) and they fought for full healthcare access, including abortion.”
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A graduate of Overbrook High who went on to earn a master’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University, Richardson served as co-director of the People’s Fund in the 1970s, and in 1982 established the Black United Fund of Pennsylvania, which served as a fiscal sponsorship organization and supported the growth, development and empowerment of the African American community.
In 1995, as president of the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation, Richardson took on the Uptown Theater project, launching a $8 million capital campaign, for which she raised $5 million. In 2000, she opened up Richardson and Associates, a finance and fund development consultancy for small businesses and nonprofits.
She was also involved with Green Jobs for Youth since 2011. The project trains youth for jobs in the sustainable manufacturing and hospitality industries, with particular focus on “green collar jobs” in building design, construction, operations and maintenance.
“Nonprofits must be able to harness the resources to provide information to neighbors on basic services and identify youth in the community that can be developed as leaders,” Richardson told Generocity in early June 2020. “Many of us who have provided these services are strapped for resources, particularly operating funds.”
She added: “The funding community must step up and provide more than the allowable percentage of giving to support job training, job creation and work with government on a massive Marshall Plan for domestic purposes.”
Hunt said Richardson was “a fighter for justice first, last and always. She was stalwart. Her death is a shock and loss for everyone.”
Gonzales echoed the sentiment. “Her love of community, art, family, and justice will be her legacy for generations to come,” she said. “May she rest in power.”-30-
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