We are sad to announce the passing of Linda Richardson, an amazing activist who helped shape Bread & Roses Community Fund for more than four decades. She passed suddenly on November 2.
“Linda was an inspiring leader, activist, and champion for justice,” says executive director Casey Cook. “Her passing is a huge loss for our whole community and she will be missed.”
In 1972, Linda was hired as a co-director of The People’s Fund (the predecessor organization to Bread & Roses) alongside Michael Seltzer. Seltzer recalls that Linda “brought a real commitment to grassroots communities and held relationships with them.” They worked together for several years as co-directors and both went on to serve on the board. “Her determination and passion for all of the Delaware Valley’s community organizing efforts were an inspiration to all who knew her,” Seltzer says. “Decades before the term ‘intersectionality’ took upon currency in today’s political discourse, she incorporated it into her own world view and practice.”
When Linda and Michael came on as co-directors, The People’s Fund was making $12,000 a year in grants to groups like the Black Panthers that were too radical to get funding from traditional philanthropy. They worked together to raise funds and distribute them to grassroots community organizing groups in the region. “She was truly the best colleague that I ever had the privilege to work with in my 50 year-long social justice career,” says Seltzer. “She may also have been the first woman of color in Philadelphia’s history to lead a grantmaking organization. Linda touched so many lives through her activism and leadership. We are all her legacy.”
Throughout the decades to come, Linda remained connected and committed to Bread & Roses as a political home. Denise Brown served as associate director of Bread & Roses from 1998 to 2005 and served on the board from 2007 to 2019. “I had the honor and privilege of working with three generations of Linda’s family,” Brown recounts. Bertha Waters, Linda’s mother, was involved as a volunteer, Linda was a donor and committee member, and Aissia Richardson, Linda’s daughter, served on the board and on the community funding board. “Their commitment was very much a living, breathing thing,” she says. “I personally always felt their support and mentorship.”
Christie Balka, who served as executive director of Bread & Roses from 1997 to 2006, remembers Linda as “an astute political observer and a font of information about the city.” Balka describes Linda’s continued contributions to Bread & Roses during her tenure as executive director: “She advised Bread and Roses staff, referred potential grantees to us, and of course continued to hold Bread and Roses accountable to the needs of the city’s Black community and other communities of color.”
Like Brown, Balka saw Linda as a mentor. “Linda was always available to me for any reason and taught me some enduring lessons about progressive philanthropy and working in coalition with other groups,” she says.
“She was a force,” says Brown. “Linda was strategic, fierce, committed, generous, and loving in the way that she loved her community, she loved Black people, she loved the work that she did. That came across.”
“Linda commanded respect because of her authenticity,” remembers Seltzer. “People followed her wisdom and trusted her.”
Most recently, in 2017, Linda served on the planning committee for Bread & Roses’ 40th anniversary Tribute to Change celebration.
Outside of Bread & Roses, Linda was a prolific and tireless organizer. She founded the Black United Fund, Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation, Uptown Cultural District, and led the fight to save and restore the Uptown Theater.
Elicia Gonzales, Bread & Roses board member and executive director of Women’s Medical Fund, shares a story about Linda’s legacy in today’s organizing. “The Women’s Medical Fund team had the privilege of meeting Linda last year and hearing about her fight for reproductive justice before it was a coined term,” she says. “In the 1970s, she and other Black women organized Triple Jeopardy (named that because they were poor, Black, women) and the fought for full healthcare access, including abortion. Her love of community, art, family, and justice will be her legacy for generations to come. May she rest in power.”
Linda’s family shared her obituary, which can be downloaded as a pdf here.
November 21: 74th Birthday Celebration and Memorial Service for Linda Richardson
Linda’s family has shared that they are holding a 74th birthday celebration and memorial service for Linda on Saturday, November 21 from 4pm to 6pm in front of the Uptown Theater at 2240 N. Broad Street. It will also be live-streamed on Facebook.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation at 2227 N. Broad Street, 19132 or online at this link.
We invite you to share your remembrances of Linda’s life and legacy by writing a comment on this post.