Isley Brothers party with a purpose

Darlene M. Johnson | 11/2/2023, 6 p.m.
Thousands of people gathered at the Hickory Hill Community Center in South Side to enjoy a free all-day party and …
Many people, some of whom have already voted, gather last Saturday for a day party and Isley Brothers concert at Hickory Hill Community Center in South Side. The party and event were part of a get-out-the-vote effort sponsored by developers of a planned $562 million casino resort at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard. More voters will decide whether they want the casino on Nov. 7. Photo by Clement Britt

Thousands of people gathered at the Hickory Hill Community Center in South Side to enjoy a free all-day party and concert headlined by the Isley Brothers and hosted by the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino last Saturday. In addition to the free concert, free food was provided to garner support for the proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino.

The event’s 6,000 reserved tickets quickly were snatched up by Isley Brothers fans. The Isley Brothers, an iconic group whose career spans more than six decades, is considered one of the “longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music.”

A win for the event organizers came in the form of Richmond residents voting on-site for or against the casino referendum which voters further will decide on Election Day, Nov. 7.

Lorna Cosby, 67, of North Side, and Dorothy Wilkinson, 92, of Henrico County, both voted by mail well before the event took place. Mrs. Cosby supports the casino proposal “100%” and attended a Howard Hewett concert two weeks ago during the “Second Time Around Grand Block Party” hosted by Richmond Grand Resort and Casino.

Lorna Cosby, left, and Dorothy Wilkinson

Lorna Cosby, left, and Dorothy Wilkinson

“We need a casino here. We need the jobs,” Mrs. Cosby said.

Mrs. Cosby also is excited about plans for a recording and video studio at the casino and resort, citing the need for more Black films to be made and produced in Richmond. The free incentives are a welcome treat, she said. Attendees at the event should vote if they have not already voted, Mrs. Cosby added.

“Why say ‘no’ to this? These people are giving all this money so that we can have more,” Mrs. Cosby said. “I don’t understand why they’re so against it, but I’m for it 100%.”

Tisha Taylor, 41, also attended the Isley Brothers event. Ms. Taylor has not yet voted, but votes every year and plans to vote “yes” for the casino. She has been to casinos before and looks forward to the benefits it could bring to Richmond’s South Side.

Ms. Taylor

Ms. Taylor

“It’s entertainment and it’ll bring fun to the city,” Ms. Taylor said. “It also brings revenue and helps Black businesses and helps multiracial businesses as well. I think it’s a good look to bring the casino and more fun into the city of Richmond. I love the city of Richmond.”

Ms. Taylor believes the free food and concert brought more people out to vote and to support the businesses serving food at the event. The employment opportunities the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino could bring would help people who do not have degrees to have a fresh start, she said.

Some concertgoers were unaware of the opportunity to vote at the event.

Levin Smith, 52, of Chesterfield, attended the event to see the Isley Brothers ,but learned more about voting. Mr. Smith supports the casino proposal and believes it will bring more revenue to the area, he said. He also believes it will raise money for education, to build up surrounding areas and reduce crime.

Mr. Smith

Mr. Smith

“It’s more pros than cons,” he said.

The free incentives were a “good tactic” to bring out voters, Mr. Smith said.

He felt that the purpose for voting was better explained to him at the event.

Stacy Shepperson, 51, of South Side, also was unaware of the ability to vote at the event until he arrived. He plans to vote in favor of the casino and resort.

Mr. Shepperson has visited many casinos along the East Coast including in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Atlantic City, N.J. He believes the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino will bring opportunities for everyone through entertainment, employment and education.

He echoed similar sentiments that the revenue raised would benefit children’s education, specifically with maintaining schools and preventing the degradation of building infrastructures.

The city has to have things for residents to do for people to want to remain residents, Mr. Shepperson said. “If they don’t let this casino come here, I’m moving out of Virginia. It’s as simple as that.”