Come to my neighborhood—right off the bat you’ll notice the bright flags and bumping music, Bushwick’s calling card. Every June though, following the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan, crowds of revelers fan out into my Brooklyn neighborhood for the wildest (and loudest!) after party of the year. This celebration itself has taken on a life all it’s own and could easily overwhelm anyone looking in from the outside. Fire hydrant sprinklers, street-side barbeques, flags draped from cars, fire escapes, storefronts and people—these provide the backdrop for a dance party that embodies a community's hopes, dreams, and its resilience and strength in the face of crushing poverty and social exclusion.
It’s not a solution to any of the problems facing the neighborhood, but it’s symbolic of the real dialogue taking place daily at the street level, where the tight bonds between people through shared experience enable rich moments like this to take place. It’s an important process for any community to go through. What you can build on top of the social fabric of the community, how you leverage the strength of the network, that’s is the real power of the parade celebrations. This is a working class holiday where the idea of social mobility and family ties keeps people here. This celebration meets people where they are and only asks that people bring their full selves to the party. It is a complicated event in the sense that it reflects what the community experiences from year to year. Everything from the weather to community relations with the police at the moment influence the mood and tenor of the street scene. Anything goes, anything can happen.