Friday, January 21, 2011

Party in the Park 2011 Coverage

Locals from every walk of life gathered in Monroe Park last Saturday. The event, spread by Facebook and word of mouth, was held to celebrate the 1000th signature on a petition to keep the historic forum open during the planned renovations.

The planned park renovation would close every section of the park for 9-months to a year. The party in the Park was a public demonstration to show concern for the park as a community center, and support those who need it most.

Alan Harrelson, a Richmond Native, has been coming to public feedings on Sundays at Monroe park for years. He collected over 500 of the 1000 signatures through an online and written petition, getting signatures from those who don't have internet access.

"This is the last place that the homeless have in this whole city to be at. They have chased them from place to place to place to place around this town and this is the last place. And if they take this, there's no place else to go."

Public feedings were the hot topic . Some groups have been feeding the needy for decades.

Cassandra Carter helps the needy with New Jerusalem International Christian ministries one Sunday a month. From Chesterfield, Carter said her and her group help in any way they can.

"We just come to talk to those in need, we come to minister to them, if its prayer they need or feeding, whatever they need that we can be a help to them because we are trying to reach out into the community to see if we can actually get them in a place were they are stable and able to have a place to go and get a job."

New Jerusalem is one of many churches that come to lend a hand.

Peggie Sterling, of the MCC Social Justice Committee, said the homeless weren't the only reason to stand up for a free and open park.

"People come here to gather as a community. We've gotten to know many of the people and some of them have come to our church after we have been here. This is just a necessary place for people to gather, there is no other place."

Music was a big part of the gathering. Local party-regulars No BS Brass Band were on hand to lend a note or two. The brass ensemble lead a parade through the park. In tow, the All Saints Theater Company, one of the sponsors of the event, were clad in rat costumes and paper mache rat masks.

A performance by All Saints lead to a brief lecture series, highlighted by a satyrical presentation by Eric Scott, local Wingnut, and a Monroe Park Campaign Organizer, dressed as Fan District Councilman Charles Samuels.

Samuels has taken the most criticism for the park renovations.

Scott said the dramatization was in jest, but supported by fact.

"I think that its important to show people that these things are ridiculous but they are in there. and they need to be addressed. because, wile the real Charles Samuels wont come out and say it just like that, that's what he's saying by his actions. That's the direction the Monroe Park Advisory council and some parts of city council are going in."

Some spectators to the event were folks who just saw the ruckus and stayed for the music.

Sunny Gilderman, a VCU grad, remembered Monroe Park fondly and came to see her old stomping grounds. Coincidentally, the former Director of Emergency services for the Homeless in Richmond stumbled upon the event. She frowned upon the idea of closing the park for an extended period of time.

"Its another example of lack of provision for those in need and a loss of services and NOT a comparable alternative offered by the city of other authorities so... not cool. At all. "

The arts were well represented at the celebration. Gull, a local masked multi-instrumentalist rode in the bed of a silver truck as it sped around Monroe Park, blaring his unique musical style.

Julie Karr, with a 'K,' played a more mellow song for the crowd.

She sympathized with the feeding programs in the park.

"I think displacing lots of people and feeding programs that have been here for almost 20 years is something we can NOT do and i think its preventable. I think having at least part of the park open allows for things like this, like whats going on today and I'd like to see more of this in general."

In the end, Just Plain Ant, of Just plain Sounds, a local hip hop collective, saw hope in numbers.

"We picked a beautiful day to do this. And i hope the efforts of today help the cause. And with the amount of people here, it should."

For Richmond Independent Radio News, I'm Brad Kutner with Danny Rathbun.


  1. Monroe Park Lost

    For thou hast been a strength to the poor,
    A strength to the needy in his distress,
    A refuge from the storm,
    A shadow from the heat
    No more

    A barren plain of grass
    Strewn with the waste of the wealthy
    A place now darker in the night
    Empty, abandoned, desolate
    It's history stripped away
    It's lively banter destroyed
    Somewhere no one will bring their children
    A gaudy nightmare
    A harlot of brass

    Weep, Richmond, weep