FLINT, Michigan -- For residents of the Eastside Franklin Park neighborhood, their reason for doing events in their pocket park located at Franklin and Ohio avenues is simple: get to know each other.
“My favorite part of the entire event was when a couple of kids found their way into my vegetable garden and were excited because they recognized tomato plants, which gave me a smile,” said Edna Sabucco, the Eastside Franklin Park Neighborhood Association lead organizer. “When I explained to the young man it was a sun sugar tomato plant and gave him one to try, he ecstatically called to his friends, ‘Hey, I just ate me a sugar tomato!,’ which tickled the tar out of me. It’s the simple things that make life worth living.”
Students from Asbury Church's Sizzlin' Culture program danced and cooked for residents during a craft fair July 24.
The Sizzlin’ Summer Sell-a-bration included a craft fair, vaccine clinic
, food, music, and kid-friendly activities. The event was supported by local organizations, including the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Keep Genesee County Beautiful, Michigan United, and The Genesee County Health Department. The park was filled with kids from the neighborhood, Asbury Church’s Sizzlin Culture’s youth
, and other local residents. The smell of fresh grilled shish kabobs filled the air and so did the sounds of the ‘Wobble’ playing overhead for anyone to dance to. More importantly, the event brought a sense of community and shared culture with attendants.
Sabucco has worked hard to create a space in ESFP that is safe and imaginative. In the middle of the park, large wild blackberry bushes grow near strawberries and a meadow lines a trail through the park. The park also has a bus stop on the west side which facilitates accessibility to anyone wanting to enjoy the beautiful space. Sabucco is dedicated to helping the neighborhood residents realize that they have neighbors who want to create a whole and unified community. She lights up when she talks about seeing bunnies run through the meadow and children taking advantage of the space to play.
Celeste Lord, an employee with the Crim Fitness Foundation, met Sabucco two years ago while working for the blight division for the city of Flint. Sabucco asked Lord to participate and bring Henna tattoos and her own artwork to sell.
Celeste Lord puts a Henna tattoo on a kid at Eastside Franklin Park's craft fair July 24.
“I've just enjoyed hanging out in this pocket park. I feel like she [Sabucco] has created a really good environment here,” Lord said. “We have all of our kids here today, it’s a safe place to be. When you have a community, you start raising the community not as individuals but as a pack. You have more community success in the sense of less blight, less opportunities to be isolated, and more opportunities in general. For example, we have COVID vaccines here today and I get to share some art from another part of the world. The value of community is shared ideas, shared resources, and communally raising a large group of people.”
Martha Allard, a returning artist to the annual craft fair said, “It's been really nice. The people from the neighborhood come out. I mean, we know the people now that come out and look at stuff and buy stuff. I think that they need more publicity because I think that the neighborhood supporting us is fabulous.”
The craft fair does not charge artists to set up a booth but just requires that artists bring their own set-up for their displays.
Flint resident Martha Allard displays her crafts during Eastside Franklin Park's neighborhood event on July 24.
Underneath the pavilion at the park, Michigan United healthcare navigators and providers shared education and vaccines for free for anyone at the park. One of the highlights of the day was when a community member rode up on his lawnmower and received his first COVD-19 vaccine. Michigan United also provided Spanish-speaking healthcare navigators to assist and educate any local Hispanic community members at the park.
The craft fair was a way to bring residents together and bring a sense of hope to the neighborhood.
“To me, community is extremely important,” said Sabucco. “People are so busy on their laptops or tablets or whatever else these days. They don't even know their neighbors a lot of times. I don't think that's good. But we do have a tight-knit community over here.”