A State Police helicopter circled over River Park Community Center on Flint’s North East side. Patrol cars from the State Police, Flint City Police and Genesee County Sheriff’s Department lined the street and filled the parking lot. A large crowd had gathered around a few well-worn picnic tables. It was a beautiful warm spring evening and excitement filled the air.
This was the scene when Larry and I arrived at the first ever “Light Up the City” event in Flint, sponsored by Neighborhood Restoration Coalition, Flint Neighborhoods United, Michigan State Police, the Flint Police Department, Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, Wal-Mart, and Consumer’s Energy, and led by artists Cinthia Montague & Candice Stewart with support from the Ruth Mott Foundation.
We slipped on our vests identifying ourselves as members of CAUTION (Community Action United Team in our Neighborhood) and joined in the activity. A DJ, Yahman Dennie, provided lively music, inspiring many to get up and dance. Hot dogs were heating on a grill and chips and beverages provided by Wal-Mart were available to everyone. Young children in homemade capes and masks ran enthusiastically through the crowd of adults announcing that they were “Super Hero’s”. One little fellow about four years old ran up to me and pointed to a badge like sticker on his chest, provided by the State Police. I’m a policeman he announced, I’m a super hero! The police were mingling with the crowd, tossing balls to the kids and making friends, providing much needed steps toward positive relationships and trust.
Soon a large banner carried by two hopping and dancing teenagers followed by an army of little super heroes and a drum band signaled it was parade time! Marchers wearing bright yellow T-shirts, compliments of Consumers Power, fell in line behind them and off we went for a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood.
Hearing the band, people came to their doors and out on porches to smile and wave. Everyone loves a parade! However, the condition of homes throughout the neighborhood was heartbreaking! Everywhere, homes new only a few years ago, stood with missing window panes front doors standing open and household items scattered out the door over the porch and lawn. While others were boarded shut and painted with graffiti. Empty unloved homes, a heartbreaking testimonial to broken dreams! As we walked along, I had to ponder how a society can have people who are homeless, while perfectly good residences are left to rot and decay?
As we neared the end of our walk, I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of the long hike, when I saw a little girl pulling on the arm of a State Trooper. He bent down to hear what she had to say and then in an easy swoop, he placed her safely on his shoulders. Trust established and a friendship formed!
Back at the community center there was more food, and then small groups formed to walk in the neighborhood distributing light bulbs. At night fall, porch lights glowed, reflecting the hope of a city.
Yes, this may seem like a small step, but it is a beginning! Police and people, eating together, laughing and playing together, walking in the neighborhood in union. Building trust and respect. A good beginning indeed!