New Playground For Community Affected By Violence In Aftermath Of Freddie Gray
By Devin BartolottaApril 15, 2017 at 11:12 pm
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A brand new green space brightens up a West Baltimore neighborhood.
They’re calling it the “McKean Miracle.”
“It brings tears to my eyes,” says Lisa Schroeder with Parks and People.
A street once crowded with decaying homes now shares a block with the Easterwood Sandtown Park and Playground. This is the same community, hit with riots nearly two years ago, following the death of Freddie Gray.
The park has been designed, and even built by the community it serves. With some help from the city, state, and Parks and People.
“On the state side, we’re coming in to help bring down some of these properties. And the community tells us and their city leaders what it is they want with that space,” says Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford.
The space is shining a light on the community. High school volunteers like Artaz Cotton built the chess stations and picnic tables.
“We’ve got a lot of negativity in this city, and it’s so amazing to see people just having fun, kids playing,” says Artaz.
This positive moment in stark contrast to just two years ago this week, when Freddie Gray was arrested in this neighborhood.
Days later, Gray died in police custody, igniting riots that destroyed businesses, and cast a dark cloud over West Baltimore.
Community activists are now eager to turn a new page.
“This is a new day where the community can tell city officials and state officials: ‘If you all won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves,” says Dr. Marvin Cheathem with the Matthew Henson Community Development Corporation.
The park is helping to bring a positive focus for a community still healing two years later.
“It’s fun because you’ve got lots of stuff that you can do at a park!”
Community organizers are now setting their sights on building up this area. They’re hoping to put in a market, pharmacy, community center and job training center right across the street.
As Printed in The Baltimore Sun
Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, 67, grew tired of looking at a desolate lot filled with trash and old mattresses in his Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. The longtime civil rights leader proposed to make a change — to transform the area into a park and playground.
“We could tell our community children needed something more than to walk seven to eight blocks to get to a park,” Cheatham said.
With the help of city and state funds, Cheatham and residents planted garden plots and cherry blossom trees. They constructed chess tables, a stage and swing sets, and a Little Free Book Library. In April, after nearly a year of hard work, they opened the Easterwood/Sandtown Park and Playground, one of the city’s newest pocket parks, or “parkettes” — small, community-managed green spaces that operate as places of recreation and community.
Baltimore has more than 270 green spaces, many of which qualify as pocket parks, according to the nonprofit Baltimore Green Space, which helps preserve such spaces. The organization has seen increased interest in green spaces and pocket parks in the last 10 years, said the program’s director, Katie Lautar, but they’re not a new phenomenon. Residents — especially those in African-American communities — have been quietly managing green spaces in their neighborhoods for longer than any of us could imagine, she said.