By Joel Hall
The city of Riverdale, local students, and the community group, Hearts to Nourish Hope, have teamed up this year to host a festival to stress the importance of community involvement, voting, and taking personal responsibility for ignorance and violence.
Jammin' N July, the brainchild of Riverdale High School graduate, and current West Georgia University student, Jazmine Stamps, aims to treat Clayton County residents with information and fun, while alerting people to the importance of community participation.
The all-day event will begin at 12:45 p.m., Saturday at the Riverdale Police Department. At that time, people will gather for a "Keep the Peace March," which will make its way to Travon Wilson Park, located behind the Kroger Shopping Complex on Highway 85, starting at 1 p.m.
At 2 p.m., there will be a "Back-to-School" giveaway, sponsored by the city. At 4 p.m., a "Block Party with a Purpose," will feature local talent, information booths about organizations making a positive impact in the community, as well as free food and free shirts on a first-come, first-serve basis.
At dusk, the event will conclude with a public viewing of "Happy Feet," the Warner Brothers animated film about dancing and singing penguins.
Stamps said she was inspired to coordinate the event by one West Georgia University professor's class. "Really, what he taught us during that semester is, if you have a problem with something, you have to stand up and take action," she said. "A lot of people wait for somebody else to do something, but you have to be the one to fix it.
"A lot of young people aren't very involved in politics," she continued. "They'll have problems with their community, but they won't do anything about it. My whole idea was getting people involved with the community."
Riverdale Councilman Kenny Ruffin said one of the focal points of the event is to stress the importance of participating in local politics. "The votes that are made on the local level affect you immediately, rather than the national level, which may take longer," he said. "The smaller the election, the more important one vote is."
Ruffin said many elections in Riverdale are won or lost by a margin of 20 to 30 votes. "I think it's important for them to know that they have a hand in how their city grows and how safe it is," he said. "We want them to like where they come from. If we have more events for them, they'll care how their city looks."
Other features of Jammin' N July are activities sponsored by the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) Program, a national organization aimed at stemming gang-related violence and activities.
The "Keep the Peace March," sponsored by Hearts to Nourish Hope, will feature a mock funeral of the N-word and the B-word, complete with caskets, in the same fashion as the recent mock funeral of the N-word, sponsored by the NAACP in Detroit.
Hearts to Nourish Hope, a Riverdale-based, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the careers and educational attainment of Clayton County youths, recently sponsored a trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City for 150 high school students.
The goal of the trip was to take children out of their everyday element and, hopefully, change their mindset toward their own community. Hearts to Nourish Hope Executive Director Deborah Anglin said the Jammin' N July event should serve the same purpose.
"The ultimate goal is to allow the youth to get their voice out," she said. "They want to make a statement to the leaders of the county ... to speak out about how we can all be a part of the solution [to tough social problems,]" she said.