Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Diego Garcia

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Diego Garcia

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, MCE is celebrating Hispanic leaders in the local community. We are excited to highlight Diego Garcia, a local small business owner, community leader, and youth advocate.

Can you share a bit about yourself and your work in the community?

I’ve been living in Richmond for around 43 years and have become heavily involved in the community. I own the local business Leftside Printing, I was a member of the Richmond Parks and Recreation Commission, and I am currently a member of the Richmond Citizens Police Review Commission. I work with young people as a youth counselor, and I am a teacher at Richmond High school, and teach a Finance and Entrepreneurship class. I also founded Richmond Sol Soccer in 2003 to help children and young adults develop social and leadership skills through sports and community service.

Tell us about Leftside Printing.

Leftside Printing prints anything from apparel to signs and stickers. Most importantly, we’re engaged with the community. When local businesses were hit hard by the pandemic, we partnered with the San Pablo EDC and Richmond Main Street to provide free signs and banners to local businesses to help them communicate and engage with customers during the pandemic.

What inspires you to work with young people?

When I was young, a man from our community used to pick up the children from my neighborhood and take us swimming. He probably didn’t realize how impactful this was, but for us, having the opportunity to get out and do something active was huge.

When I entered my teenage years, I got into a lot of trouble. I got involved with gangs and eventually ended up getting shot. The recovery period gave me time to think about my life and my priorities.

After I recovered, I started picking up the kids in the neighborhood and helping them stay active to keep them away from the streets. From there, I started Richmond Sol Soccer, and 17 years later we work with around 300 families. We help young people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. We help them develop leadership and community service skills. We also engage with the community in other ways, including putting on a haunted house for Halloween, providing food baskets for Thanksgiving, and even offering free haircuts.

What skills do you want to pass on to the young people whom you teach and mentor?

At Richmond High School and in my Finance and Entrepreneurship class I help young people build a “human antivirus” to protect themselves and help them succeed. The important components are becoming educated, taking care of their health, understanding their finances, and, most importantly, giving back to their community. Giving back is one of the most important lessons that I hope to teach these young people. I want to teach them how to support each other and encourage each other’s growth.

Will you share more about your involvement in local government?

I was proud to be a voice for the community while at the Richmond Parks and Recreation Commission. It’s important that decision makers include folks who grew up in the community and know the community’s needs. For example, during my time there, there was a proposal to renovate local tennis courts. As someone involved in the community, I knew that most local kids played soccer or football, not tennis. I did some research and discovered that over 3,000 kids had registered to play soccer in the city, but the city had only one soccer field. I’m working with other community based organizations and schools to build more soccer fields for our children. During my time with the Parks and Recreation Commission, I was able to advocate for funding to renovate two tennis courts into a futsal court, and now the kids use those courts every day.

As a member of the Citizens Police Review Commission, we assess claims and reports from any citizen when they feel that their rights were violated or that they were a victim of racial profiling or police brutality. Based on these assessments, we provide recommendations to the council and chief of police to help ensure that the police force is reflecting the needs of the community. We also work closely with the police department to better serve the citizens, supporting them in training and connecting to the community.

Has your experience growing up as a Hispanic American influenced your approach to public service?

When I was growing up in Richmond, the city was only around 15% Latino and I was often the only Latino in my class. It was difficult because I often felt out of place, and there weren’t many Latino leaders to advocate for our community. We had to advocate for ourselves. Seeing that lack of leadership inspired me to step up and serve as a leader in my community. I am so honored to be able to serve my community. It’s a necessity as well as a huge privilege.

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