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Fifth ward residents, along with Citizens Greener Evanston (CGE), Dear Evanston, and the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, present Meet Our Community: Fifth Ward Festival, a music, food and information festival with the goal of bringing people from all over Evanston to celebrate, changing perceptions of the fifth ward, and focusing on reducing youth gun violence.

“Meet Our Community gives us an opportunity to share Twiggs Park with the rest our community,” said fifth ward Alderman Delores Holmes. “I truly believe that if you live, work or play in Evanston then you have to own it. The festival will allow others to understand that the fifth ward is wonderful part of Evanston that they can enjoy.” 

The festival, which will take place on Saturday, August 27 from noon to 8 p.m. in Twiggs Park (Simpson and Bridge Streets), will feature performers, speakers, and food by fifth ward food vendors including C&W Minimart and Ice Cream Parlor, Jennifer’s Edibles, and Tishbars, as well as Evanston’s Amanecer Breakfast Taco truck, hotdogs donated by Valli Foods, snacks provided by Mark Vend and the Crave Bar Ice Cream truck. 

Local organizations and businesses—including Chicago Votes, OPAL, Peer Services, Curt’s Cafe, Youth Job Center, District 65, ETHS, Childcare Center of Evanston, Cradle to Career, Family Focus, as well as the Evanston Police Department and Evanston Fire Department, will staff outreach booths that address the underlying causes of youth gun violence, and many more will be represented. The Moran Center will be there to offer workshops on record expungements and sealing. Peaceable Cities will hold three Community Peace Circles during the day.

Speakers will include Denyse Stoneback, People for a Safer Society, Pastor Michael Nabors, Second Baptist Church, Evanston Police Officer Kyle Wideman, and mothers whose children have been affected by gun violence, among others.

“I’m so glad to be working on this festival,” says long-time fifth ward resident and community activist Lonnie Wilson, “Because I understand the real worth and value of the ward that raised me, and because it’s a pleasure to work with a diverse group of Evanstonians on it.” Stephen Adams-Cochran, another fifth ward residents added, “Having lived in the fifth ward in my younger days, and now raising children in the fifth ward, I felt what better way than helping improve community relations with other areas of the community. To help tear down the racial divide and misconceptions others have of the fifth ward. We know that we cannot solve all problems in one event, but to use this as a cornerstone in the rebuilding of relations as a community.”

During the day, ETHS students, dancers and other performers will be featured on stage. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Evanston’s Manwolves, Chainsaw Dupont, Kweku Collins and Funkadesi (whose founder Rahul Sharma lives in Evasnton) will play.

“We are thrilled to be involved in this event,” said Leslie Shad, CGE’s vice president. “The Festival speaks to CGE’s commitment to social and economic sustainability, and to helping the Evanston community think about and respond to problems of violence, racism, economic inequality. We believe that a greener Evanston can only be achieved with a more equitable and safe community, and that the greening of Evanston in all our neighborhoods will play a vital role in reducing violence and injustice in our city. CGE serves as a convener, drawing people from across the community together to focus on a need.”

Joi-Anissa Russell, director of strategic partnerships at the Moran Center and a fifth-ward resident, said the Center is co-sponsoring the festival because it wants to support the community in which many of its clients live. “As a disrupter of the school-to-prison pipeline, the Moran Center advocates for community-based solutions as an alternative to incarceration. A strong community that supports youth with meaningful second chances and opportunities is critical to creating a more just, peaceful Evanston,” she said. “The festival will be a great opportunity to get proximate, support the resiliency of our youth, and connect with other families in the community.” 

Since January, gun violence has killed three young Evanston men, and over one weekend in June, four young men were injured by gun violence.

Dear Evanston co-founder Nina Kavin said, “The Dear Evanston Facebook page provides a forum for Evanstonians to discuss issues of youth violence, race and equity, and highlights the many individuals and organizations in Evanston that work to improve these issues. We hope that this festival will bring people from behind their screens to mix and mingle in real life.”

The event is co-sponsored by: Ald. Delores Holmes, Family Focus/Evanston, CEBA, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Northwestern University, Mark Vend, Unitarian Church of Evanston/REAL, Valli Produce, Erie Family Health Center, Y.O.U., Youth Job Center, First Band & Trust, State Rep. Robyn Gabel, State Rep. Laura Fine, State Rep. Daniel Biss, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, and more.