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Fifth ward residents, along with Citizens Greener Evanston (CGE), Dear Evanston, and the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, will 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, perhaps change their perceptions of the Fifth Ward, and focus on reducing youth gun violence.

“Meet Our Community gives us an opportunity to share Twiggs Park with the rest of 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 a wonderful part of Evanston that they can enjoy.”

The festival, which will take place from noon till 8 p.m. on Aug. 27 in Twiggs Park – Bridge Street at Simpson Street – will feature performers, speakers, and food by Fifth Ward food vendors, including C&W Mini-Mart and Ice Cream Parlor, Jennifer’s Edibles, and Tishbars; the Amanecer Breakfast Taco truck; hotdogs donated by Valli Foods; and snacks provided by Mark Vend and the Krave Bar Ice Cream truck.

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

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

“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 Evanston-ians on it.” Stephen Adams-Cochran, another Fifth Ward resident, 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 [can] use this as a cornerstone in the rebuilding of relations as a community.”

“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, and 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.”

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.”