This year’s Community Appreciation Day featured pitcher Mo’ne Davis and hip hop legends.
Although school started earlier than usual this year, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and the Point Breeze community did not forgo their annual Community Appreciation Day this past weekend.
For the 10th consecutive year, thousands of neighbors, constituents and vendors took to Point Breeze Avenue, which was populated for several blocks with carnival rides, a medley of cuisines and even old-school hip hop performances.
Johnson, who fostered the event as a state representative in 2009, envisioned the festival as a fusion of celebration and awareness.
“It was a way for me to bring the community together in a day of food, fun and entertainment, and most importantly, information that will empower them to improve the quality of their lives,” Johnson told SPR during the event.
Although folks picked at funnel cake and french fries, they also perused the spectrum of city department and social service booths that lined the streets.
While the day serves as a chance to soak up the remainder of summer, the block party also is a platform for counsel and conversation.
Neighbors can learn where to seek recycling bins or about methods to pay electricity bills. There were tons of children’s and educational resources on site, including dozens of book bags being given away.
Addressing more serious concerns, neighbors often use the event as a chance to discuss ideas about greater issues plaguing the area.
“The councilman is a family-oriented man and a community-oriented man,” said resident Lynne Wilkins, who works in South Philly as a community activist. “He constantly likes to see people come together, and by coming together, he uses (the event) as a vehicle to tackle some of the issues that we go through as neighbors. So, it’s kind of like a celebration for everybody. … You learn the different stuff that’s going on within the different cultures that represent South Philadelphia.”
Throughout the day, Johnson proudly wore a T-shirt declaring “Peace, Not Guns,” which echoed the themes of this year’s festival.
“The city of Philadelphia — right now, we’re in a crisis when it comes to the issue of youth gun violence,” he explained. “We’ve seen several young people either hold a trigger or die at the hands of another teeanger pulling the trigger, and so today, we’re going to be promoting ‘peace not guns’ all throughout the day, and it’s reinforcing that message.”
Both attendees and volunteers said, especially considering incidents they’ve experienced recently in the immediate neighborhood, the festival is a time to talk and heal with fellow neighbors.
And while this year’s theme centered on gun violence, it encompassed novelties on lighter notes as well, such as the presentation of the Living Legend Award to Mo’ne Davis — the Taney Dragons baseball player who made a national name for herself after becoming the first girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in the 2014 Little League World Series.
“For me, that’s special, primarily, because she’s a product of the South Philadelphia community, but she’s a national figure now,” Johnson said. “She’s a shining example of what all of our young people can accomplish if they have support from their community, and they have support from their family, so we want to highlight her for our 10-year anniversary.”
The block party was set to the sounds of an assortment of local and world-renowned entertainment, including Greg Hill Delfonics Revue, Fatman Scoop, Kool G Rap and EPMD.
These “Legends of Hip Hop” headlined the event in honor of the genre’s 45th birthday, plopping its prolific figures in the middle of Point Breeze, as Johnson stresses that “before there was Jay Z, there was Kool G Rap.”
“With him addressing the hip hop, addressing (Mo’ne Davis) who has done a great job, he tries to support and recognize different genres of folks,” said Sheila Johnson of Citizens Concerned for Youth and a resident of Southwest Philly, as she stresses that, unlike most block parties, this Community Appreciation Day draws folks from even beyond the boundaries of South Philly.
Sheila Johnson said, as manager of a youth enrichment program, she’s actually produced a contact book of resources, including social work and city departments, which she produced through the annual Point Breeze festival
“There’s people that need help all over,” she said. “And this event here, it’s just like an octopus’ arms reaching out to everyone everywhere.”