COLUMBIA – A party took place in Douglass Park Saturday evening. That’s exactly what Margaret Hickem and other organizers of the “Easter Party” planned for the youth of the Douglass neighborhood. A few hours after the event started, cars were parked for blocks around.
People walked toward the music to celebrate Easter with other members of the community. Children crowded around DJ Al Nicholson’s booth watching their peers participate in a dance contest. Parents surrounded the dancers with video recorders and cameras commenting on dance moves they weren’t sure if they could do themselves.
After a few minutes, the DJ changed the tempo and played a couple of songs for the adults to two-step to. Before the dance contest, the children were busy painting Easter eggs, having egg-racing contests, hoola hooping and playing on the playground in the park. Darrell Foster, a member of the First Ward Ambassadors, said the kids are always the focus of events in the neighborhood.
“Everything we do down here in our community, in Douglass Park, is for our children,” Foster said.
Foster said that it’s the responsibility of the community to make sure the children have something constructive to do.
Hickem, owner of Mama Bessie’s Cleaners, said she was pleased with the way the event turned out. She remembers in her youth when there was plenty for kids to do. When Wynna Faye Elbert worked in the city's Parks and Recreation Department, there were fashion shows, barbecues and other parties for the youth to attend.
Hickem says she, along with Lynn Williams, Danny Hyler and Freddie McKee, held the Easter Party to show the children that adults want to provide them with positive ways to have fun.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids to have Easter with the community,” she said.
Menyon Ricketts said the event her aunt hosted made her happy because it was a chance to be around family.
“I feel proud of her to do this because I wanted her to do this for a long time,” Ricketts said.
There was a fish-fry with fish caught by Hickem and others, hot dogs provided locally from Kraft foods and other items donated by sponsors.
“They need to try to do stuff like this more often,” said Stephanie Stapleton, who brought her two sons to the event. Stapleton said she enjoyed herself simply because her kids were having so much fun dancing the "stanky leg."
There was a table devoted to collecting money toward scholarships for high school students graduating in May, and Earnestine Campbell was selling paintings. Campbell said she uses many of her paintings – which depict photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama – to educate people.
“There is a history behind all the pictures,” she said, adding that there is also history behind the sense of community and camaraderie seen at Douglass Park Saturday. “We need to get back to that.”