Black Student Union hosts fall festival for Gainesville community

November 2, 2015
Desirae Lee
photographer: Desirae Lee

The University of Florida’s Black Student Union hosted a fall festival at Cone Park for the youth of east Gainesville.

With the goal of providing a “safe Halloween environment,” several groups including Leadership Development Institute, Faces Modeling Troupe, Progressive Black Men, Alachua County Health Department and Equal Access Mobile Clinic volunteered to set up games and activities for youth to play, dance, and of course, eat plenty of treats.

Over 100 kids from the surrounding area came out to participate with family members. Young superheroes and princesses joined in on games, arts and crafts and face painting.

winning at darts

Sable Toney, a fourth-year telecommunication major, appreciated the opportunity to volunteer and set an example for her mentees. Toney is a co-director of Leadership Development Institute, a mentorship program for freshmen affiliated with BSU.

“This is something we really pride ourselves on. One thing I wanted to instill in these freshmen is the importance of community service,” Toney said.

Toney also recognizes the significance of the location for the festival.

According to NeighborhoodScout researchers, the East University Avenue neighborhood stands out for having an average per capita income lower than 95.3 percent of the neighborhoods in the United States. Single mothers run 24.3 percent of this neighborhood’s households, which is a higher concentration than 98.1 percent of American neighborhoods.

Arifah Holmes, a mother of two and a resident of Gainesville for 20 years, said her family was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the festivities when walking to the park Saturday afternoon.

“I think it’s really good for the kids to have somewhere other than going door-to-door tonight. Having a safe, central place helps.”

kids draw pictures

Third-year industrial engineering major and BSU philanthropy cabinet director Kirsten Elliott led of the event. 

Her overall goal was “for the community to see what black UF looks like, and to also know that the University of Florida is welcoming them.”

By hosting the festival, Elliott and her cabinet members were able to collect contact information from several residents. She intends to use the listserv as a means of creating action in the form of rallies and protests for social justice.

As the sun began to set, the festival came to a close and Elliot gave her closing remarks pointing out the importance of return investment: “The black community has invested way too much in me to not give back the same. Who are you if you don’t serve the community that best serves you?”

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