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Flint, Mich. — For four hours on a Saturday evening, the 200 block of Sherman Avenue was filled with music from local singers, musicians, and DJs; art and poetry from Flint-based artists; barbecue and tacos from local vendors; and smiles from visitors and residents alike.
Flint’s second PorchFest pop-up, entitled “Party-Gras” by its nonprofit organizer, was celebrated on the city’s north side on July 10.
Jamelle Glover, founder and executive director of In The Beginning: 1st Ward Project, said his nonprofit applied to host PorchFest on this north end block because of its proximity to his home and heart.
“It’s the neighborhood I’m from, the neighborhood I was raised in,” Glover said, adding that his parents still live on the block. “So that particular area and neighborhood is somewhere where I’m very, very passionate and sincere about.”
Flint’s PorchFest series was launched in 2020 by the What’s Up Downtown Project in partnership with the Genesee County Land Bank’s Moses Timlin, Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association’s Kaye Sims and the Founding Director of The Porch Project Megan Heyza.
This year, What’s Up has partnered with Flint’s Neighborhood Engagement Hub, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and the Imagine Flint Master Plan to provide neighborhood organizers with funding for the logistical needs of a massive block party (think insurance, porta-potties, and permits) and compensating each evening’s talent.
But the pop-ups are more than just block parties for organizers, who make a point of hiring what they called “hyper-local” talent and vendors to show off their neighborhood’s cultural capital. Meaning each PorchFest is unique to the block it’s held on.
For Glover, that meant In The Beginning’s version had a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site alongside the music, bounce-house, and art installations lining the rest of the block.
“Our mission is really to bring certain organizations and certain resources to the actual neighborhood,” said Glover of his nonprofit, which he started in 2018 to combat blight in the first ward but has expanded to improving parks and renovating abandoned homes. “We even have a basketball league coming later this summer,” he added. His brother, Reginald Glover, is In The Beginning’s athletic director.
From a red canvas lawn chair near the corner of Sherman Avenue and Verdun Street, Constance Price, 71, approved of the “Party-Gras” pop-up happening just outside her front door. “Everybody’s having a ball!” she said as her great-granddaughter, whose face was half-tiger thanks to a face painting station at the other end of the block, nodded in agreement. “Sherman Avenue is a family.”
Price also said that she was delighted to see all her neighbors and friends out after the pandemic kept them apart for a year. “It’s been wonderful,” she said with a grin.
The next PorchFest pop-up will be hosted on Caniff Street, July 31 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.