Martin Luther King Jr. Park, located at 39th Street and Western Avenue, is just a small representation of a neighborhood that has seen better days.
But on November 6, there was nothing but smiles at the park, as Congressmember Karen Bass presented a $3 million dollar check on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control, to the neighborhood. Many community members, politicians, and health and public safety professionals joined to celebrate. Fifth graders from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School kicked off the celebration on stage, with joyous hopes for a healthier future. Longtime residents and parents struggling to raise healthy children in the neighborhood, which has been marred by violence and significant health disparities, were able to tell the stories of their challenges while expressing hope and optimism at the announcement of new resources would bring.
Behind the announcement was the leadership of Marqueece Harris-Dawson, executive director of the Community Coalition, who created the local project as part of a national pilot effort to look at news ways of improving health in communities who have long been left behind. The $3 million dollar grant from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s REACH Program, is designed to improve participatory approaches to identify, develop, and disseminate affective strategies for addressing health disparities across a wide range of at risk health priority areas.
The day concluded with good music, refreshments and plenty of hope to go around.