Notes from the field: A Perfect Day

The Olney Youth Arts Festival was held on Saturday, June 15, 2013, and it was perfect day.

It was a perfect day, because it was a clear blue sky with sun at a comfortable 83 degrees, despite a couple of weeks of thunderstorms and rain prior.

It was a perfect day, because a myriad of young dance groups performed their hearts out, honoring their particular dance tradition – Latin, Asian, African-American and Afro-Caribbean.

It was a perfect day, because we got to see these cultures share with one another, creating new appreciation for each other’s unique cultural expressions but also our collective shared love of dance.   (Picture this: dancers in the dressing rooms behind the stage peering through the tent wall to catch a glimpse of what was happening on the stage.)

It was a perfect day, because volunteers from all walks of the community came out to support the event before, during and after.   

It was a perfect day, because a vision hatched over two years ago by Olney residents and stakeholders took flight with the stewardship of vital non-profits, businesses and the faith community, working together.

It was a perfect day, because the City of Philadelphia and its various services did an A+ job in delivering on their civic contract with residents.

It was a perfect day, because those of us that care about our young people and their personal development through expression, and our communities’ health as a whole, rallied to make the Festival a special occasion to remember and one to emulate and replicate.

In Olney on Saturday, June 15, it was a perfect day.


I think one of the most lasting images for me from the event will be seeing some of the storeowners standing in their doorway or sitting on their stoop enjoying the performances.  

Why is this a powerful image you may ask?

Many of the businesses, at least on the block where our event was held, are typically “open for business” during regular hours, but often times, their doors are locked, and you need to be buzzed in in order to get in. 

Or as is often the case, some transactions are done through bulletproof glass. 

Being in the neighborhood that they are in, the sense of danger and fear is real, but it can overwhelm any bond of fellowship and trust that a healthy neighborhood needs in order to thrive, and not merely just to do business.

For one day during a few hours, their doors were actually wide open and people were basking in the glow of what our young people can do when they are allowed to be themselves and to be creative, and a sense of community was allowed to flourish.