As the City’s wave of summer block parties begins to wane making room for fall’s share of outdoor events coming a few weeks away, Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill still rocks with talk of the immersive rock party that took place, Saturday, August 19, in a least-likely though very popular place: the verdant Greene Avenue between Cambridge Place and St. James Place. You know the block where the brother with the presidential name sometimes opens his garage to allow passersby a glimpse of his grand collection of well-kept automobiles from another era. The families, apartment dwellers and property owners occupying the small brownstone-lined two-way strip, was a welcomed little sister to its ‘round-the-corner neighbors, since the June-to-August parties commenced decades ago. They said it couldn’t be done — couldn’t close down that section, but a brownstoner, journalist made it happen. Several hundred people swelled the streets, ate and danced. We asked event designer Marlon Rice, a journalist and currently events guru for Restoration Plaza, to share words on what made his “little block” the big talk of the town over the weekend. Most of the photos on this page are by Eurila Cave, part of Rice’s team. Ms. Cave’s photos tell the story, as well. -Bernice Elizabeth Green
Marlon Rice Speaks:
What we did was historic.
It was the first time ever Greene between St. James and Cambridge Place has its own block party.
Our small block usually identifies with the cross streets for our summer celebration. We participate, we help out, we feel the beat and share in the joy. But we never had our own.
Sometimes you need that one person. Although there are so many other “ones,” I have to thank Officer Poole of the 88th Precinct for understanding my passion and respecting my purpose for this when I reached out to her.
She is a jewel in the community.
The pandemic has changed the way people socialize. Large indoor venues are pretty much obsolete. More and more people in the cities are making the collective decision to attend outdoor or events and concerts. The block party has become an even greater resource for socialization. It is a unifier, too.
You used to find that people only attended the block party on their blocks, but now people will go all over town for the “right” block party.
So, what is a “right” block party? It’s basic. It’s what makes the people feel right. Good music, good food and good people.
And Brooklyn has it all. Brooklyn is the Home of the Block Party. We have mastered the art of bringing people together in our community by bringing speakers outside and playing the right tunes. The Block party also is the root of Hip Hop. It was at the Block Parties where the DJs became known, and the MCs paid dues.
It was not about one person; it was about partnerships: The Block Association, DJ Pleasure and DJ Goldfinger and me. Each of the partners worked the entire summer on the curation of this cultural project.
Organizing takes initiative and commitment. The consumer never knows what it takes to get these events together. They come to enjoy themselves, never knowing the time and energy. And they should not have to know the elements that go into it.
Another factor in the success of Block Parties these days, is social media which has turned the Block party. Tens of thousands of people see the pictures and the videos posted. The content absolutely drives people to the Brooklyn experience.
Recent Block Party success stories such as Bed-Stuy Restoration’s Black Lives Matter mural; St. James Joy and the Tompkins Avenue Open Streets program have transformed the Brooklyn Block Party from a block-and-resident event into a destination event. The Block has expanded in scope.
For Greene Avenue, last Saturday, two buses of people came from Philly just to experience a Brooklyn Block Party. Brooklyn Block Parties are national conversations, at this point.