At about 11 a.m. on Saturday a parade made its way to the closed off street in front of the Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ in West Oak Lane.
The children who were playing there stopped and joined the others lined up to see who was coming. A drum line lead the way, followed by Mayor Michael Nutter and Rep. Dwight Evans on the back of a yellow convertible. Another drum line wrapped up the procession circling a police car that held off traffic.
When Bishop Ernest C. Morris, the founder of the church, took the stage at the 10th annual Taking it to the Streets Festival he told the crowd that the celebration was important because it helps bind the community together.
“The work of the church is in the streets,” he said. “If we want to make an impact in this community, we got to take it outside the four walls.”
Morris believes more groups should have these kind of activities to give blocks that don’t often intermingle a chance to do so.
Mayor Michael Nutter also praised the efforts when he took the stage.
“On behalf of the city, we love this,” he said. “This church is always focused on the right thing.”
Nutter used the opportunity to talk about reducing violence in the neighborhoods and encouraging young people to go to college and get that degree, saying that “K to 12 was 50 years ago.”
The festival, according to Evans, helps people deal with their own challenges on a practical level too, by connecting attendees with the services they need through the more than 30 informational booths present.
Aside from fun activities for everyone, there were also performances, like that of Barbara Moore and her troupe, who exercised in front of the crowd. Moore, an exercise instructor, and her group love working out together so much, they wanted to share their routines.
Some audience members followed along, and children gravitated toward the giant ‘moon bounce’ stations set up close by.
The event was co-sponsored by Rep. Dwight Evans and the church, and this year they decided to combine a community bike ride through the neighborhood led by Town Watch Integrated Services, which took place imediately before the festival.
The parade is known as the “March for Peace,” so the bike ride was named similarly – “Pedal for Peace.”
Past bike rides have gone to different neighborhoods to see what people’s concerns are and to take resources to the community. Both the bike ride and the parade, Evans said, aim to include more people who might otherwise not make it out to a community event like this.
On the stairs of two adjoining houses on Ogontz Avenue sat the Hargroves beneath the shade.
The family of eight took a break to eat. Pastor Larenzo Hargrove and his wife, Katrina Hargrove, got a flier about the event and decided to attend so their children could have fun. With a few moon bounces, a crafts section and basketball hoops, the children had plenty to choose from.
“We are enjoying it,” he said. “And the children are enjoying it more.”