Summer of Peace

At peace pole

Community elder, Ms. Bertha Givins, and Dan Kravetz, who came up with the idea for Summer of Peace two years ago.

For the third straight year, the Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, partnering with the Summit-University Planning Council and District 7 Planning Council, co-hosted The Summer of Peace celebration, a series of events that was the brain child of former ASANDC staffer Dan Kravetz. This “traveling block party” with events happening each Thursday, provided an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other and participate in activities benefitting the entire community. Thursday events included clean-up efforts, community gardening, live entertainment, cook-outs and the general spreading of goodwill and summer cheer.

We spoke with Irna Landrum, Executive Director of the Summit-University Planning Council, who shared some highlights from the Summer of Peace.

How did it go? It seemed like there was such a good feel to the events.

It definitely was a success, bigger than what we had done before, a bit overwhelming, but it went very well. We tried to do it a little differently, in the past it was more about getting out, seeing people and giving them information — more of a here’s where you go, here’s what you do, the food is over there kind of thing. We wanted it to be more interactive and thought it would be more successful if people could contribute and be engaged.

What were some of your favorite events?

The kickoff event was phenomenal. It was held on a vacant lot on Victoria and Concordia that had an interesting story: On that corner was a really dilapidated home. The neighbors wanted to buy and rehab it but that didn’t work out and the home was demolished. But they were able to buy the lot and wanted it to be an asset to the community. So we held the kickoff event there and did a peace pole planting and worked with a landscape designer, neighbors brought seeds and plantlings and we did a small vegetable garden right in the middle of the lot. Police officers, political candidates from the district, and lots and lots of neighbors came out to the party. It was just so awesome. The owners wanted everyone involved and asked for ideas about what could be done with the lot — they made a list: What I like to see is… and people voted.
Another great event was the forum in July with candidates from the Minnesota House of Representatives District 65A. When people start talking about politics it is easy to discount this neighborhood — people don’t turn out to vote — it seems easy to count out a community like ours. But that night we set out 50 chairs and we had to get more — nearly 60 people came out to ask the candidates questions. That was really rewarding

Also, we had a block party on Fuller Avenue at Chatsworth and Milton. We work with a group called Hearts and Hammers who help elderly and disabled homeowners rehab their houses. At that point Hearts and Hammers had done five houses on that block — now it’s up to seven.

How rewarding to see all that progress in one place.

It really was. And there was one event that just SWELLED. It started with an idea — our community organizer met this neighbor who drums, he plays the bongos and congas, and she asked if he would lead a drum circle. He said sure and then spread the word to his friends. It turned into multiple drummers, a stage and sound systems, it became a little block concert. It was a bit overwhelming, but all the neighbors had so much fun. And the original neighbor said he needed some work done on his house, and I handed him a Hearts and Hammers brochure and they ended up doing work on his house. It all fits together.

What do you see for the future? I mean after you rest up from this!

There are three community gardens all along Victoria Street in several different neighborhoods. We want to see what kind of community identity we can build along Victoria. It seems like some of the physical barriers are really big psychological barriers — the neighborhoods are very different, but it will be good to focus on what we have in common.

It seems we need a fresh perspective, it is easy to say, “Here are the challenges and difficulties,” but it is good to hear a fresh perspective of, “This is what’s beautiful!”

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