This is How We Do It: Reflections on the Downtown Block Party

I was so proud of T-town on Saturday when ,e and my crew attended the Downtown Block Party. We came, we saw, we shook our collective groove thangs! The Hilltop Pops, the PSP pizzas, the beer garden…it was what James Brown would call “a funky good time.”  A project of Downtown Tacoma Neighbors and Local Life Tacoma, the block party had an amazing variety of kid-friendly activities and crafts, as well as an on-site T-shirt screen for a custom made keepsake shirt.

As the night fell it was so great to watch young Black brothas in basketball shorts, middle aged White men, a Filipino grandma in her wheelchair, and my personal favorite, a blind woman with a three-legged toy poodle…they were all groovin’ to the music, taking turns with the soul train line, and teaching each other how to Dougie. Oh, it was something to see, my loves! Like many cities, we might bump into each other during work or school, but we live, play, and congregate in a very segregated manner. North End, Hilltop, Eastside, Proctor District, South End—we don’t feel inclined to build relationships or even patronize businesses outside of our neighborhoods. It’s really quite sickening because we need every spoke in our neighborhood wheel to transform our city. Nothing corny here, baby, I’m talking interdependence and solidarity here. I’m talking mutual respect and sharing economic, political, and social resources. I’m talking quality and affordable grocery stores in EVERY neighborhood (holla at me Eastside and Hilltop), streets without potholes the size of beach balls, more libraries than liquor stores, and innovative educational models for every school in the 253.

I know, I know, I’m shooting high. Yeah, I admit it. But hell, what I’m supposed to do, shoot for the ground? Aim for the mediocre? Um, no. In fact, hell no.

While I recognize the above aspirations involve systems, institutions, resources, and conflicting philosophies, we can take the first step towards achieving them through two basic elements: CONVERSATION AND SPACE.

Talking, laughing, meeting. Hula hooping, face painting, lobbying, and of course, electric sliding. This block party encouraged my spirit because it was a testimony that we can share space to celebrate our fucked up lives and aspire to an even better one. Check out these gems:

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It was crazy to be dancing to some of favorite jams from high school and college with my 15-year old, my 8 year old, a super preppy White dude in pastels with a golden retriever, and of course, the three legged toy poodle. I so regret not asking what his name was.

All this to say, I was proud of my city and our will to engage with each other. My prayer, though, is that we can take that willingness from the dance floor to the board rooms, classrooms, court rooms, and our living rooms.  Let’s take it home with the most popular jam of the night:










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