Black Street is nestled in the North End of Halifax between Fuller Terrace and Gottingen Street. If you’ve heard rumours of homemade dragon playgrounds, paper moustaches, massage trains and cake walks, odds are you experienced the lingering after-effects of the annual block party.
On Sunday, Sept. 16 the street hummed with hundreds of kids, adults, wanderers, artists, pets and performers. The public took over the streets with bicycles, hula hoops, dance moves and painted cardboard bumblebees. There were bubbles everywhere.
There were two stages at each end of the block. One was for kids, who performed songs ranging from the ABCs to K’Naan’s “Wavin’ Flag.” Kate and Rich, the dynamic accordion-clarinet duo, entertained on that stage in the late afternoon. Willie and Grace Stratton, The Moonshine Ramblers and The Caravan performed on the other, bigger stage throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
Quincy Russell, who helped set-up the party, said most of the material used to build the interactive dragon playground and pyramid structures on the block were scavenged. A massage chair, decorative lights and cooking gear were loaned to the party by neighbours and contributors.
The Black Street party mingles people of all ages who play and dance into the night. Gail McNeil, a student of herbalism who was selling her homemade elderberry syrup, said events like this transcend generations, and there are no real social boundaries. According to the “Action for Happiness” website, organizing street parties connects neighbours of different interests and age.
The Black Street party shows what can be achieved in one day when the right support systems are in place. Why don’t more streets in the HRM follow their lead and take to the streets in celebration and community building? According to the website myhrm.ca anyone can do it, but it’s necessary that all the affected neighbourhood residents sign an agreement permitting the party. Respect to municipal by-laws such as no noise after 11 p.m. must also be abided.
Seems easy right? Well, it could be—or not. Brian Riley, a block party volunteer, pointed out a house where a woman has lived for 60 years. He said on Black Street some of the residents are natural builders or landscape architects, and others are families.
A successful block party seems to need an established, diverse community as a foundation. In a transient city like Halifax the challenge is to bring neighbours together. The Black Street party could be easily replicated in neighbourhoods who have the community-minded drive.