By Tanu Henry
INGLEWOOD — Funeral services for former Inglewood school board member Margaret Richards-Bowers will be held Feb. 5 at the Holy Cross Mortuary, 5835 W. Slauson Ave., Culver City. The viewing will start at 10:30 a.m., followed by services at 12:30 p.m.
Richards-Bowers, a retired registered nurse and community advocate, died Jan.16 following a prolonged illness. She was 70.
Born on April 15, 1953, in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation in the eastern Caribbean, Margaret Mundus Richards was the eldest of seven children born to Vernon Richards and Enid Banfield Richards.
Richards-Bowers graduated from the prestigious St. Vincent Girls’ High School, where she served as class prefect in her senior year, a role held in high regard and viewed as second only to a teacher in terms of authority and respect. She was the first runner-up in the Miss St. Vincent Teenager contest, and she had the honor of having tea with the late Queen Elizabeth II of England.
In 1972, Richards-Bowers moved to Los Angeles. She worked part-time while studying for an associate of arts degree in nursing at East Los Angeles College. She later earned a bachelor of science degree in health service management from the University of La Verne.
Although she had interests in acting and singing, she chose a career in nursing for its stability. However, notably, she played a crucial role in the formation of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival, according to Ayuko Babu, the festival’s executive director.
“Margaret’s unique perspective, stemming from her Caribbean roots in St. Vincent and her Los Angeles experiences, enriched the festival’s Pan African outlook,” Babu said. “Her contributions were pivotal to the festival’s development and will always be cherished.”
After becoming a registered nurse, Richards-Bowers began her career as nurse manager at Pico Psychiatric Medical Clinic. She later joined Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood, where she served in various roles, including staff registered nurse in the Oncology Unit and charge nurse in the Coronary Care Unit.
In 1990, she joined Kaiser Permanente, West Los Angeles, serving as a staff registered nurse and relief charge nurse in the Urgent Care Clinic.
While at Kaiser, Richards-Bowers served as the chairperson of the Employee Congress Committee. She authored the committee’s mission statement and initiated “The Culture of Courtesy” program that promoted an environment of courtesy and respect. In 1998, Richards-Bowers left Kaiser to focus on raising her sons.
Richards-Bowers was also involved in volunteer activities. She served as a member of the Los Angeles County Community Emergency Response Team, the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Committee and as a volunteer deputy at the Ladera Heights Sheriff Community Service Center. She was a director and vice president of the Ladera Heights Civil Association and was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., and the National Council of Negro Women.
Richards-Bowers was a community health advocate and board member of the Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community. She testified before the Los Angeles County Planning Commission on the Inglewood Oil Field Community Standards District. She also advocated for environmental considerations and community involvement in a school construction project before the Inglewood school board.
Richards-Bowers, who became a U.S. citizen in 1996, was deeply involved in political activism even before she could vote. She helped elect local and national candidates that shared her values, like Mervyn Dymally, a fellow Caribbean immigrant, to Congress. Eventually, she became a deputy registrar of voters.
Richards-Bowers participated in several campaigns for former Los Angeles Police Chief and City Councilman Bernard Parks who admired her dedication, saying, “Margaret channeled her unwavering political passion into tangible actions. Her journey from grassroots campaigning to becoming a national delegate is a testament to her relentless advocacy. Her legacy will continue to inspire us.”
Richards-Bowers also was a member of the New Frontier and Culver City Democratic Clubs, the National Women’s Political Caucus’ South Bay Chapter and Organizing for America. In 2008, she served in various roles for the Obama for America Campaign, including precinct captain, and volunteer and resource coordinator for the 33rd Congressional District. She was elected as a district delegate for the 2008 Democratic National Convention held in Denver, where she had the privilege of engaging in conversations with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Locally, Richards-Bowers was a passionate advocate for public education. She held leadership roles, including co-president of the Frank D. Parent School PTA, and was a member of the Inglewood Unified School District Budget Advisory Committee and Measure GG Bond Committee, which secured $90 million for school facility improvements. She co-founded the Education Equity Coalition when the district went into state receivership and advocated for an audit of district management, appearing before the State Legislature twice until the audit was approved.
Richards-Bowers also sought to effect change through elected office. Although her first attempt to join the Inglewood school board was unsuccessful, she persevered and won a seat, eventually serving as president of the board. Unfortunately, health issues prevented her from running for re-election.
According to current school board President Carliss McGhee, “Margaret Richards-Bowers was my soulmate on the Inglewood school board. Her tireless dedication, love for students and her spirit and tenacity for progress in education reflect her genuine commitment to ensuring a brighter future for the students she served. Her absence will be felt and she will be sorely missed.”
Richards-Bowers was not only a dedicated professional and community advocate, but also a published poet, runner, music enthusiast and an art aficionado.
She leaves behind a loving family. She is survived by her husband of 37 years, Joe William Bowers Jr., eldest son Shawki Haffar Jr., son Jason Takao Bowers and his wife Roslyn, and cherished grandchildren, Wolfgang and Sachiko. She is also survived by sisters Merlyn, Bernadette and Jacqueline, and brothers Robert, Leon, Bernard and Claudon.
Tanu Henry is a reporter for California Black Media.