CHICAGO HAS FOREVER had a troubled history with violence in its inner city neighborhoods, with a total of over 2000 people shot and wounded this year alone. When Angie Tribett received a call from her good friend Jamillah Omar (better known as Ojay), stating that this was the 4th classmate that her daughter has had killed this year, they both decided enough was enough.
“We got a group of our peers together, and we brainstormed to see if we could do anything to assist or curb this violence in Chicago” Angie explains. What resulted was an initial meeting of about 20 people in her house, the HELP Project (Households Enriching the Lives of other People) was created, and within two weeks they came up with their first pop up party.
The first party debuted in Roseland (the far south side of Chicago) with Diane Latiker, founder of “Kids Off The Block” on October 12th. The plan was to basically throw a big, fun outdoor event for the both the kids and the adults in the neighborhood. H.E.L.P. volunteers donated all the food and supplies. People played basketball, jump rope, there were hula hoops, and of course dancing to House Music. There was a booming sound system with DJs such as the Chosen Few’s Andre Hatchett, Fiddy Millz and Darryl Hopkins. And the food. There was enough food to literally feed an army: burgers, hotdogs, chicken, rice, salad and pasta. Police officers were there to join in on the festivities and get to know the kids and parents on a more personal basis.
The second party followed suit within two weeks, this time in Taylor Park on October 24th. This one I was able to attend, and was impressed by both the turnout and the positive energy. I watched adults play basketball with the kids, a police officer dancing un-selfconsciously by herself, and I spoke to a young girl about the dance contest the kids had all just participated in. The atmosphere was relaxed, as if everybody had known each other all their lives.
So how does a pop up party help stop the violence? “It’s about spending good, quality time with the children and showing them that we love them,” explains Ojay.
“We’re letting these kids be kids again,” Angie continues. “Some of them are too scared to go outside, many of them don’t even know how to play jump rope! So we’re giving them a distraction. We’re telling them that today, there’s no stress.”
By creating a positive environment, replacing the violence and negativity with music and camaraderie, the community can begin to heal. The police department has an active role behind the H.E.L.P. project, providing the areas for which the pop up parties can happen, giving protection and supervision, and they’re also the ones who inform the neighborhood of the upcoming event. It’s a way for people to get to know the police in a different light: instead of being the bad guys, they’re your friends.
Needless to say the success of these parties has been outstanding. They’ve made stories on both CBS and Fox, have gotten amazingly positive feedback from both kids and the adults, and now there’s a demand for even more of these feel good events.
These parties will also not be limited to just the south side of Chicago. With their growing popularity and awareness, they will move on to every part of the city that needs it. The HELP Project will also be partnering up with other organizations that can help in their message of anti-violence. They encourage anyone and everyone in Chicago to join them in their mission and to help spread the word. Kudos to Angie and Ojay for initiating this labor of love at a very crucial time in our city.