Book Fiesta + P.L.A.Y: Challenge Winner Check-in
500 painted letters, magazine scraps, dirt, and paper mache everywhere? That’s Book Fiesta in the making! Book Fiesta is a literacy event in East Lake Park celebrating Children’s Day/World Book Day, based on the bilingual picture book, ‘Book Fiesta’ by Pat Mora. In the story, children celebrate Children’s Day by reading books with their friends and families in a series of magical settings. The idea for the event came to the women of ELLA Chattanooga, an arts organization in East Lake, who know that play has the power to build trust, unity, and cross-cultural understanding among their remarkably diverse neighbors and their children. They wanted to create a fun event where kids can experience this special book in tactile ways, so they applied for the Causeway Play Challenge and won! With enough funding to make Book Fiesta as big as their dreams, this awesome team got started right away on all the preparations.
ELLA Chattanooga is all about building consistent interactions and relationships between neighbors, which means that Book Fiesta involves more than just a one-time event. The Book Fiesta team is working to engage neighborhood families through hosting a reading group and open studio hours as preparation for the event. They’ve been reading stories, painting cut-out letters, and putting together seed bombs. Project leader Jazmine Leblanc has been enjoying the collaborative process. Every time she hears her child shout “Mommy, I made that!”, she remembers how important creating is for building self-esteem and ownership. They want as many families and kids to be involved in preparing for the fiesta as possible so they can experience this feeling. Jazmine told us she wants to hear kids all around the park telling their parents “I MADE THAT!” and thinking “This is mine!” That is the kind of ownership they are going for.
On the day of the event, we hope to see the vision for Book Fiesta come to life, with families across various cultural backgrounds coming to the park to play and read together, meet their neighbors, and create habits of play that help children learn and grow. So mark your calendars for April 16th 1–4 pm and come celebrate Children’s Day in East Lake Park!
Police Leadership and Youth (P.L.A.Y)
What’s your experience with cops in Chattanooga? Depending on who you ask and where you ask, you’ll hear mixed responses. When Causeway Challenge winner Roe Anderson posed this question last week during a community gathering, it was obvious that everyone there was on the same page: police don’t always provide a sense of safety. The room was filled with people who shared their stories from growing up in some of Chattanooga’s at-risk communities such as Ridgeside, Southside, and Avondale. One woman said the majority of her experiences with the police included seeing them “standing there watching us from across the parking lot until we did something wrong, but they would never interact with us”. Others in the room shared similar stories, but Roe Anderson wanted to talk about why there is such a tense relationship between police and youth in Chattanooga.
Growing up in one of those at-risk communities herself, Roe realized that the problem is in the lack of positive connections between youth and local authority figures. Many police forces are working to build trust with their communities, but there is an added challenge in neighborhoods where police diversity doesn’t mirror the community’s diversity.
Last Fall, Roe realized she needed to do something, so she decided to apply for the Causeway Challenge with her project Police Leadership and Youth (P.L.A.Y). Through this program, her goal is to bring together at-risk kids and city authority figures, such as police and firefighters, through sports and team-building activities to create a two-way street for understanding. Roe wants to teach the kids not to be afraid of authority figures, while giving police and firefighters a chance to understand the youth in the communities they serve.
Roe is making time for this project because she knows there are others who feel the same kind of passion. Through many meetings with police officers and other authorities around the city, she is building a team of volunteers who are willing to invest in her project. Finding the right people is the most important task for her right now, because she wants P.L.A.Y to be a safe haven between both police and youth, where interactions are both positive and consistent.
The first event is coming up in June, so stay tuned for more updates. We are so excited to see the launch of this program and the impact it will make on our communities!
Do you know of an officer who may be interested in participating in this program? If so, Roe would love to meet with them. Feel free to send an email to email@example.com with any questions.