In celebration of the Monroe Park Campaign’s 1,000th petition signature, All the Saints Theater Company hosted Party in the Park on Saturday in Monroe Park, where a number of homeless congregated with Richmonders rallying around them for a day of music, food and other festivities.
Among the Campaign’s foremost goals is to keep as much as half of the park accessible to the public – and hence the park’s sizable homeless population – during the Monroe Park Advisory Council’s upcoming $6.2 million renovation project.
The project, which will incorporate such amenities as a café, carousel and concert stage to the park, would also wall off access for nine to 18 months.
The Wingnut Anarchist Collective, whose Food Not Bombs program has offered meals free of charge at Monroe Park for over 16 years, is one of many organizations supporting the campaign, as well as Saturday’s events.
“They’re going to do what they’re going to do. Renovations can be a good thing, but how they go about it is a big issue,” Beth Awesome, who regularly volunteers for Food Not Bombs, said of the planned renovations.
Various sections of the park were set aside for popular local music acts such as Diamond Center and Lobo Marino. Laney Sullivan, member of Lobo Marino and the unofficial music coordinator for Party in the Park, said her concern for the homeless community emerged “(when) I was working in the food programs and getting to know the people who use the park every week.”
“The homeless presence gives students a better vision of what it is to live in the world,” Sullivan, who is a former VCU student, said.
Other amusements featured at Party in the Park included a parade with members of All the Saints Theater Company and the No BS! Brass Band. A face painting stand also proved popular for younger families.
Amid the festivities, however, advocates like W.B. Braxton Banto from ASWAN Homeless Advocacy Leadership did not forget about the issue at hand. In a speech, Banto compared the homeless situation to a “real life horror movie.” CT