Our Time AT HOME
On Cambridge Place …
A Block Party Reunites Families and Friends
Traditionally, June to September throughout New York City is the season for weekend block parties when neighborhood groups with the proper permits close streets to traffic and have a festive time.
For the second year in a row, long-time residents of Cambridge Place/ Gates & Greene, took the annual one-day/closed-street event idea to another level by integrating one resident’s concept for an extended family reunion block party. The result, last Saturday, was nothing less than superb.
Cambridge anchors and longtime residents Lillian Brooks (who lives in a property occupied by her family since 1948), and her Atlanta-based daughter, Tracy Kenyatta, among many others, worked diligently throughout the winter and spring to inspire former residents to return on July 25. And they did, some 150 of them.
Brooks credits the successful outreach to technology. She said techies’ Face Book and You Tube outreach – technology unfamiliar to the elder facilitators – was the key to tracking down Cambridge Place alumna.
The block’s newer arrivals –poised to get started with making their own block history — supported the Cambridge Reunion with set-up, clean-up, donations and emails.
Warm embraces and laughter were the order of the day, as people who live next door or across the street from each other became acquainted.
Mothers of adult children jumped back to their childhoods, with girlish shrieks , during an impromptu, spirited double dutch competition. And men evoked the past as they took part in games of their youth.
“The event had a life all its own, and became something more than our plans,” said Ms. Brooks, adding that the intention was to reconnect with memories of gentler, uncomplicated eras when a stick and a ball held as much impact as a handheld computer game. “And we wanted our children to keep their Cambridge Place history alive for their children. It was just that simple.”
In the end, the reunion/block party rekindled relationships, sparked new ones, and revealed unseen stories and links.
At approximately 6:00pm, Ms. Brooks called for a moment of silence for a neighbor, a wonderful warm-hearted woman passed a few days before the block party. Everyone gathered in the street in front of Shirley’s house, holding hands. Led by Ms. Kenyatta, the memorial was poignant and included a remembrance of those on Cambridge Place who had passed within the year.
Reverence was appropriately framed by the spirit of family celebration associated with block parties and reunion: children of all ages had fun, with the brownstone-lined street functioning as a canvass and ‘play’ ground; people sharing stories and board games, stick ball, jump roping, bicycling, fun-food bingeing and other festive happenings including dancing, listening to music and just observing from the stoop perch.
So shutting down the street to traffic, this year, opened up another world for all who attended Cambridge Place’s grand soiree. People from as faraway as Atlanta and as near as Atlantic Avenue congregated to share where they are, where they have been, what they may still have to go. And, naturally, what they will do next to keep the links.
The Cambridge events ended at around 8pm. Break-off celebrations continued inside various homes on the block. Laughter was strong and rich, “good times” lingered well into the night.
A warm after-event at Ms. Brooks’s residence ended at around 5:00am, Sunday morning, as the last guest waved goodbye with a promise to return to Cambridge Place soon.