In honor of Black History Month, we shine a spotlight on a few of the movers & shakers who make Concord a better place to live, every day.
Seeking Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence
For Chelsea Davis, justice is an everyday endeavor. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, she manages two legal services programs at Concord’s Family Justice Center that help families affected by domestic violence. One program connects victims with pro bono lawyers who can assist with obtaining restraining orders, and the other coordinates free, on-site legal consultations.
Davis, who loves to travel and even has a travel blog to share her stories and beautiful photography, started her legal career doing litigation in San Francisco. But her heart was in public service, a tug that led her to the Family Justice Center. She has only been there a year but talked about the ongoing need for these services in the Concord community.
Like many organizations doing work in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, child abuse, and elder abuse, the COVID pandemic has left more people vulnerable and has contributed to a spike in calls for help, especially for those needing housing.
In these most challenging of times, Davis and her colleagues at the Family Justice Center are providing a one-stop-shop where victims can safely access a wide array of services – from housing and employment assistance, to trauma recovery and otherwise unaffordable legal aid that includes accompanying women (86% of the Family Justice Center’s clients are women) to their restraining order court appointments.
Giving Children and Families a Head Start
Like Davis, Jacqueline Smith is another woman of color doing remarkable work to support social equity and community vitality in Concord. Her title alone at the Unity Council– Family and Community Partnerships & Home-Based Coordinator – gives you an idea of the sheer magnitude of her responsibility.
Through in-house resources and deep community partnerships that Smith nurtures, the Unity Council in Concord sets families with limited means on a path to success – offering services that extend from pre-natal assistance to senior care. While the agency has a Head Start site for children, their focus is on the family as a whole. They bring teachers and family advocates into homes to directly assist with parenting issues – whether it be support with getting diapers, language translation, computer assistance, homework help, and even setting up doctors’ appointments so caregivers can go to work or school.
If the Unity Council doesn’t have a particular resource, they can always tap into their vast referral network. “If I don’t have a direct answer or the specific resource a client needs, I will find it somewhere,” Smith said with confidence.
An important aspect of Smith’s job and of the Unity Council is to ensure that partner organizations not only provide clients with the services they need, but also deliver those services efficiently and treat families with respect.
The community members served by the Unity Council represent 16 different languages and a wide variety of backgrounds – mostly Hispanic, but also Middle Eastern, African American, and biracial. It is important, according to Smith, that no matter who they are or what their background is, they have a positive experience.
If her responsibilities at the Unity Council weren’t enough, Smith also participates in the community planning process for the Contra Costa Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice (ORESJ). Their goal is to enact and sustain principles, policies, practices, and investments that are racially just and equitable across all Contra Costa County departments and divisions.
Investing in Concord Through Business and Community Service
Also making an indelible imprint on the Concord community is Keith Burks, co-owner of the popular Concord Tap House which opened in midtown in 2018, as well as the nearby Frickin’ Fried, a new venture that he and his son Myles launched in October 2021. As its name implies, everything here is deliciously fried, with a focus on fish and chips and carnival food. Hankering for a deep-fried Oreo? This is the place to go.
With an entrepreneurial spirt and business savvy that trace back to his days in San Francisco and now in Concord, Burks doesn’t take his success for granted. He is deeply involved in all facets of the local community, and especially with Concord’s youth, having raised his own kids here.
“I’m, not just a businessman,” he explained. “I go to church here, I live here, I work here, I invest here.” It doesn’t take long talking to Burks to understand that he is the perfect combination of an optimist and a “doer”.
Take the colorful mural just 200 yards or so from the Tap House, on the back wall of the Parma Delicatessen. Depicting a Tuscan winery picnic scene, it was created in early 2021 by art students from the Clayton Valley Charter School. Burks made the project happen by selling the concept to the city council, contacting the school, and funding the art supplies. “It’s something that will last, and the kids can look back and say I did that,” said Burks.
When COVID hit in 2020 – bringing unprecedented challenges to his own business – Burks not only found ways to adapt the operations of his own restaurant, but he also immediately thought of ways to feed the community’s first responders as well as the homeless.
He has also stepped up by using the Concord Tap House to help raise money for Afghan refugees entering the community, all the while continuing to attract customers eager for their local craft brews, flavorful eats, and a relaxing sense of community that has been missing for so long.