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“Back in the Day” festival energizes Southside community – MSR News Online

(pictured left) Rope pros doing a Double Dutch demo; (back left) Greg Austin, Bobby Tims, Gary Armstrong, Tony Rice (front left) Ronnell Tresvant, Phillip Crawford and James Graham

A new mural offers a message of love and hope

Hope can take many forms and is often found in things we never imagined. For a community still rebounding from the crippling effects of the COVID that has taken so many, as well as the murder of George Floyd, that hope was on full display as large numbers of community members gathered in a park for an event. that started in someone’s backyard.

Now in her 13e year, the Southside Back in the Day Festival held September 3 in Phelps Park has undoubtedly earned its lofty reputation as the gem of summertime activities in South Minneapolis.

It started as a backyard gathering, but now the festival encapsulates the pride, culture and unity of an entire community. The event attracts participants from all over the metro and even from outside.

Phillip Crawford, one of the founders of the event, explained how a gathering of good music, friends and family grew into an annual event that a community hosts to relax, share much-needed services and create links.

“At the time, I could never have imagined that our little gathering would grow so big. It really took on a life of its own,” Crawford said. “We are very grateful for all the support over the years.

“It’s so uplifting to see people come back year after year. They crave positive experiences, and that’s what we strive to give them with the Back in the Day Festival.

Highlighting the event organizers’ commitment to fostering community spirit, the theme for this year’s festival was “Wake Up, Everyone!” What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

Crawford is particularly proud to have produced an event that has traditionally been uneventful. “We haven’t had any incidents, thank God. We try to show our young people that it’s okay to love each other, that we can get together without any problems, and if there is any tension in the air, we even cross it with love.

One of the many activities at this year’s festival included the unveiling of a new basketball mural. The creative genius behind the powerful mural is local artist Jendayi Berry, who prides herself, as stated on her website, on creating “art for socially conscious disruptors and advocates of positive change”.

Berry’s design also included the creative efforts of Southside Village Boys & Girls Club youth and community members. Colorful art is designed to represent, harness and redistribute community positivity.

Berry spoke about the inspiration for the design, “So I just think after the murder of George Floyd, a lot of energy was taken out of our communities, and we kind of ended up with where do we go from here? And I wanted to answer that question through this piece. For me, the answer is for us to focus on ourselves, to re-engage with the positive energy that comes from our community.

He also thinks the mural can provide a different perspective to outsiders in this community. “What’s important about this is that even though we may see it as a basketball court, for others who pass by on one of the busiest streets in south Minneapolis, they will see a symbol of love and what that community can look like.”

The mural was first proposed by the Elevate Foundation in 2019. These plans were followed by two years of feedback from the community and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff. Bill Costello, the founder of the Elevate Foundation, shared his thoughts on choosing his foundation to get involved.

“I used to live in the King Field neighborhood. And then George Floyd was murdered,” he explained. “We had done volunteer work in this neighborhood. I found myself providing food for children who could no longer receive school-funded meals and realized that these children were in danger.

Costello continued, “I had previously been linked with Project Backboard, which is the organization that runs these projects across the country. And so it seemed like a great opportunity to bring an asset to the community that kids could get excited about, be proud of, and bring positive energy to their neighborhood, especially in the wake of so much change and controversy.

Mark Graves of the Boys and Girls Club of Minneapolis also helped support efforts to create the new mural. “We are so happy after two years to finally see this as a reality,” he said. “I’m just amazed by the creativity of our artists.”

The renovation of the Phelps Park basketball court was led by Project Backboard, whose mission is to renovate public basketball courts through the art of building community while inspiring people to think more critically and creatively about their environment.

The festival also featured an array of specialist vendors, including author James Holmes of Black Lion, a publisher of books to help empower black families; Jervis White, Jr. of Papa J’s Kitchen & Goods.

Mack the Barber was also on hand to provide haircuts for those who could not afford them. “That’s how I give back,” Mack said. “We’ve all been at a time when we needed a helping hand.”

Alex Hands was also in the park with Lake Street Works, an organization that offers paid apprenticeships to high school students of color. “Through this apprenticeship program, we are working to eliminate generational poverty, and the best way to do this is to ensure that young people from at-risk backgrounds have a skill that allows them to earn a living wage” , explained Hands.

The Southside Back in the Day Festival once again delivered exactly what this community needed: an infusion of positive vibes, unity, fun, good food and soulful music.

See more photos by Al Brown below.