When some want to explain their inactivity in response to the big issues of our time, they often say, “The problems are great but what can one person do?”
Allison Holman isn’t buying that.
In 2020 she was new in town, having just moved here from Dallas, and observed that Forest Park is “a very artsy community with solid people.” She also dived right into activism, participating in the Black Lives Matter marches downtown.
It was while she was participating in those demonstrations that she conceived a vision for her newly adopted community.
“Especially in the political climate of 2020 which was so divisive,” she recalled, “it was nice to see everybody come together. So I imagined everybody in Forest Park putting their passion into creating something that would be beautiful and that they could display in their yards or their windows that would be a visual representation of how they feel.”
At that point the vision was still gestating. She called her Realtor, April Baker, who connected her to Lin Beribak a co-chair of the Forest Park Arts Alliance, who immediately liked the idea. Beribak knew what to do on the art side, but needed help with the diversity part, so she called Marjorie Adam Clark, who co-chairs the Juneteenth Committee, and the three women birthed the event scheduled for Sunday, May 22 at Reiger Park, which they’re calling Signs for Change.
Clark said, “Juneteenth is Mayor Hoskins’ baby and Signs for Change is Allison’s baby. We — the Arts Alliance, the Juneteenth Committee and the whole village — have to take care of this baby and help it grow.”
Like all visions in the “toddler” stage, Signs for Change is still a work in progress. Beribak, for example, has a wish list of things she would like to see happen to make the dream a reality:
- food vendors like Smokey Joel’s hot dogs and Brown Cow ice cream
- tents (in case of rain)
- Kribi Coffee
- music (a band or maybe a DJ)
- speakers (short talks on the meaning of Juneteenth)
- Black businesses since it’s a Juneteenth event
So far the park district is letting Signs for Change use Reiger Park rent free and is providing the tents without charge, while Sarah’s Inn is letting the group use their parking lot across the street. Smokey Joel, however, was already booked, so the search for food vendors continues. Beribak hopes residents will offer their time and talents.
From an artist’s perspective, the event at 1526 Circle, will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 4. As participants enter the park, they will receive a blank yard sign which they will be free to decorate any way they want — in the tradition of the Cover the Rust project on the Circle bridge — keeping with the Juneteenth theme of freedom and inclusion.
Holman emphasized that people don’t have to be artistic to participate. Stencils will be available for drawing letters and a few signs will be already made up to give participants ideas and inspiration. “We’ll have the Juneteenth flag,” Beribak added, “and 24 packs of multicolored markers available. For those who register in advance on Eventbrite, the cost per sign is $10 and for those who come on the day of the event the cost is $15.
“We’re hoping people register in advance so we don’t run out of signs and supplies or over-purchase. Metal frames will be available for those who want to plant their sign in their front yard.”
The Arts Alliance has kicked in $500 as seed money, and sponsors are, of course, welcome.
Beribak said the Arts Alliance is depending on Clark to create ways to tell the Juneteenth story and Clark said the Juneteenth Committee is looking to the artists in town to help participants imagine what our community might look like.
Clark said, “I think artists have a way of being forerunners of a lot of movements. They help us catch a glimpse of a better reality, of a better version of ourselves. We think of racism as a structural issue, but you can’t change policy until the people in power change their hearts and minds.”
To quote Robert Kennedy, “Some see things as they are, and say why. I dream of things that never were, and say why not.”
For information regarding the event or getting involved, use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org with Juneteenth in the reference line.