Saturday, January 26, 2008

MLK Day 2008

MLK Day 2008 was a great, great day. We walked in the parade, showed a flim and held a discussion, worked on service projects, and had a blast at John Henry Beck Park. We probably had about 2,000 - 3,000 people roll through the park during the afternoon. Talk about a dream come true for Hands On.

None of this would have been possible without some key partnerships with The Knight Foundation, Clear Channel (via 92.5 The Beat), and the Beau Rivage. The Knight Foundation supported the film and the service projects as a way to get a diverse group of community leaders pulled together for a conversation about issues that are important to the community. It was the kick-off for a year-long series of activities to engage the community and attempt to get them more involved.

Clear Channel helped make the event in the park possible. They brought in folks to help with activities for the kids, held a talent show, and broadcast live from the Park. You should check out the photos on their website Click on Day in the Park.

The Beau Rivage generously donated space and equipment to show the film and catering for the event. It was a fabulous space.

It started as a very chilly morning. As worried as we were about how the day was going to go, there really wasn't much to do but let the day unfold and see what it brought. I am definitely a worrier, so I was nervous until my part with the film at the Beau was finished.

The parade was great. Though somehow we weren't on the list of floats, we managed to get in the front of the parade. We walked the route in about 45 minutes. The crowd looked a bit thinner as compared to last year, but it was still a great turn out. Hands On folks cannot help but have fun. We threw beads, superballs, and candy to the bystanders. It was sorta like a Mardi Gras parade, but different. Our folks carried big wooden hands painted blue. In white ink, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr sat in the palm.

Naturally, everyone was so excited to throw beads that we were out by the time we got to the main crowd near Yankee Stadium. Oh well. How can you frown on fun? Perhaps folks will remember for next year ...

As soon as our float finished the parade route, I rushed to the Beau Rivage for the film showing and discussion. We didn't have the turn out I had hoped for, but we still had a lively discussion. We had folks from the Beau Rivage's Diversity team come to participate in the discussions, as well as Adele Lyons from the Knight Foundation who helped support the day's events. The film we watched was King: Man of Peace in a Time of War. I highly recommend the film. It is striking to see how so many issues that were being discussed in the 60's - housing, a war, equality - are still relevant today, particularly on the Coast.

Because I was at the film discussion, I didn't make it to the service projects, but we landscaped a resident's house and made murals for one of our partners, The Village. We love The Village for the work they do with the Hispanic and Spanish-speaking immigrant communities. They just moved to a new building, so we were happy to be able to decorate the walls for them with some art they can take with them to the permanent digs when they become available. Thanks to Anne, Caitlin, and everyone else who helped with that.

Will led the landscaping project at Ms. Ethel's house. We finished her house last September and had the Guiding Light come down for a little move-in celebration. We were excited about the opportunity to finish the yard.

At John Henry Beck Park, we were amazed by what we saw. During the day, folks wandered over from the Battle of the Bands and hung out in the park. We worked with Clear Channel and 92.5 The Beat to put on an afternoon of celebration in honor of Dr. King. There was a talent show and a performance by soul patrol. There were activities for the kids, as well as music broadcast from the park all afternoon.

When it was said and done, there were probably 2,500 to 3,000 people who rolled through the park. When I got up on stage at the end of the day, all I could see was a sea of people. It was exactly what we dreamt about when the park was restored in the hot summer of 2006. Thanks to all those who put in hard work then and over the past year to make John Henry Beck Park a great place to people to come play and enjoy themselves.

Park DancingThanks to everyone who made MLK Day a great day for Hands On Gulf Coast. We look forward to improving on all aspects of it for next year.

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