Linda Richardson, champion for North Philly’s Uptown Theater, dies at 73

Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson, who was president of the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation (UEDC), died on Monday. Richardson was 73.

Richardson launched a capital campaign for $8 million, raised $5 million, and provided oversight to the construction project of the theater. She started the Uptown Radio station WJYN 98.5 FM, a low frequency station serving North Philadelphia and Center City. She created an award-winning STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) youth program, harvesting the creative energy of North Philadelphia youth.

Richardson created a young adult leadership training camp to ensure the active engagement she experienced to spur civic responsibility in generations to come. Her role in revitalizing the Uptown Theater and harnessing the creative, commercial and civic talent in North Philadelphia is critical in keeping Philadelphia a Mecca for art, culture and business engagement.

She was passionate about the arts. She worked her first job long enough to save money to get an associate’s degree from the Philadelphia Dance Academy in 1967 where she majored in Dance and Theater.

She was a performer, fundraiser and wardrobe designer for a North Philadelphia theater arts group called, “The Black Butterfly.” After working in and teaching theater/dance for the Philadelphia Recreation Department and School District of Philadelphia for many years, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is what propelled her to a life of activism and community building. She was rehearsing for a play with the integrated Theater 14 at Heritage House in North Philadelphia when the actors heard commotion outside: a community enraged, feeling hopeless and discussing economic oppression and racial disparity. Richardson spoke to them about art, hope and vision, but felt her cultural work was irrelevant. It was at that point started transitioning to do community organizing for the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice and, later, Triple Jeopardy.

From 1972 to 1979, she was hired as co-director of the People’s Fund, the precursor of Bread and Roses Community Fund, a progressive social change foundation. She also co-directed the Philadelphia Clearinghouse of Community Funding Resources, an entity providing technical assistance and operational support to emerging social change organizations.

In 1982, Richardson established the Black United Fund (BUF) of Pennsylvania after minority-run organizations and Black social workers expressed concern that safety-net programs were cut drastically and not receiving technical assistance and fiduciary support from larger entities. As founder and executive director for the Black United Fund, Richardson managed a $2 million construction project resulting in the Avenue of the Arts-North completed project, and developed a fundraising federation resulting in $300,000 in annual income. While operating BUF, Richardson simultaneously completed her Bachelor and Master’s degrees in science from New Hampshire University in 1990.

In 1995, the economic development committee of BUF incorporated the Uptown Entertainment Development Corporation and gained the title of the historic Uptown Theater in 2004.

A year ago, Senator Sharif Street honored Richardson during Women’s History Month for her efforts in the community. Street knows her contributions to society will be missed.

“Linda Richardson was a pioneer in our community with a legacy of fighting for civil rights, community development and empowerment of her people,” Street said in a statement. “She inspired a generation of young leaders especially those of color. She will be missed but her legacy will endure.”

Richardson was born in Philadelphia to the late Lester and Bertha Waters. She received her formal education in the Philadelphia Public School System and was a graduate of Overbrook High School.

She was a devoted community builder, daughter, older sister, wife, mother and grandmother. She married Donald Richardson in 1965, and from that union had Aissia Richardson and Tarik Richardson.

In 1982, she married the late Yahya Abdul Karim and they became the power couple on Avenue of the Arts-North Broad Street in the 1990’s. They were most known for their work with the Black United Fund, Uptown Theater, Garvey-Wells Bookstore and actively participated in Temple University’s Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP). They had two biological children together, Monifa Young and Mariama Wood and also served in parental roles to Keshia Jones and Gerald Covert.

She was devoted to her family and was extremely proud to have ongoing, collaborative projects in the arts, education, community revitalization and healthcare reform with her six siblings.

She leaves a legacy behind and many to cherish her memory including her siblings: Cynthia Waters-Tines (Mark), Dr. Sheila Waters, Jack Waters (Peter), Vincent Waters (Renee), Dr. Diana Waters, and Nica Waters-Fleming (Rob); her children: Aissia Richardson, Tarik Richardson, Gerald Covert (Cindy), Keshia Jones, Monifa Young (Zachary), and Mariama Wood (Derrick); grandchildren: Emanuel Hakeem, Yasmina, Bryanna, Jaylin, Naima, Daeja, Tre, Naiya, Alana, Demari and Yasin; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and community organizations where she served on the Board of Directors: African American Museum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Folklore Project, anti-racism committee of the Philadelphia Ethical Humanist Society; and American Ethical Union.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. in front of the Uptown Theater, 2240 N. Broad St. The celebration will be broadcast live on Uptown Radio’s Facebook page.

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