June 7 2010
Listen: This past Saturday, the Harambee neighborhood had their Community Action Day, a two block street festival between 4th and 6th Streets on Center, at the heart of the Harambee neighborhood. A day packed with music, family activities, a resource fair, and fun, their Action Day was meant to set a peaceful precedent for the rest of the summer.
During the week leading up to Action Day, the organizers made a concerted effort to get the word out about event. They hoped to reach beyond the familiar faces, and invite the whole neighborhood. So how does one ensure every Harambee neighbor has the opportunity to connect with the event? A mailing? Posters? Maybe a Facebook group?
Nope. The organizers did it the old fashioned way, going door to door and face to face, and extending personal invitations.
So what did this look like? As you can see in the pictures, they hit the streets. Representatives of community groups, business improvement districts, the city, faith-based organizations, the Milwaukee Police Department, and more, walking down the street and talking to folks right on the sidewalk or up on their porch. Listen to the sounds of grassroots community organizing in action: see podcast below.
For me, it was incredibly energizing to see community leaders rolling up their sleeves and directly interfacing with their community. Ideas and conversation can sound good in the abstract, but their impact gets lost without action behind them. And these efforts to promote Action Day were certainly not for show — nearly all of the participants didn’t even know I was coming with a microphone. In fact, I could hardly get most of them to slow down and take a break from speaking with neighbors in order to be interviewed.
Want to learn more about Harambee? You can start at the Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative blog. You can also check out the Harambee Connection section of the Riverwest Current.
Produced by: Adam Carr