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Over the sound of speakers playing the song “Candy” by the band Cameo, community members and friends alike gathered on June 5 for a block party at Hovland Court that was full of jubilant music, laughter, and joy.
In the wake of the violence that took place on that street in March, resulting in the deaths of two young people, members of the Hovland Court Block Club organized the event as a reminder of unity, safety, and positivity.
“We had some violence on our street in March that really affected everybody. It was really horrible,” said Kristin Huzar, an organizer and member of the Hovland Court Block Club. “Some moms got together, and some neighbors got together, and they were saying that we really hate it that when we Google our street name, the murders that happened in March and a couple of them that happened in the past come up.”
Ms. Huzar, who has lived on Hovland Court for the last 12 years, noted that when she first arrived, the club was very active. After a while, it dissipated. Now it is fully back to provide resources to the community.
“We want to turn it around. We want to be positive,” said Ms. Huzar. “We need to start getting to know our neighbors, and we need to make this a good block where people feel like yes, my kids can go to the park, yes, my kids can play, and yes, this is a good place to raise a family.”
In addition to the presence of the Block Club were tables from the City of Evanston, Evanston Police Department, Evanston Public Library, and STEM School Evanston, with representatives giving out information to the public, while a bouncy house, basketball nets, and drums entertained the young people.
“We hear a lot from the community that they aren’t aware of some of the many things that are happening, or that there’s nothing there for them, or that there’s no one there that looks like them,” said Terri Campbell, Assistant Director at the Evanston Public Library. “That might’ve been the case at one time, but I think that we have listened to the community and continue to do so.”
The Evanston Public Library offered free books for audiences young and old, in addition to some drums for community members to create their own live music.
“We also want people to know about other things that happen at the library, and so if this is the way to have a natural conversation about what’s happening, what our values are and where we want to be, and how important it is to serve this community well, then this is the place to be,” said Ms. Campbell.
The event welcomed about 150 people with free food and drinks. Children up and down the block smiled and waved at their neighbors while looking to a positive future while still remembering the past.
“I hope that people will get to know the names of their neighbors, see each other, and have fun together,” said Ms. Huzar. “We just want to know everybody. We want people to feel free to ask if they need something, and to get together.”