The hot asphalt a couple of Saturdays ago on the corner of Kent and Chapel Hill, in the heart of Durham’s West End, wasn’t hot enough to keep neighbors away from the West End Day of Celebration.
West End Community Center students performed “Thriller” on a Durham Parks and Recreation stage while families and neighbors mingled – some dancing, some eating, some seeking out shade. Neighborhood children bounced in the Moon Walk, laughed at a clown or lined up to get their faces painted.
The scene was what Sandy Demeree, West End Neighborhood Association president, had in mind when she first started visualizing the gathering back in October.
“The objective was for neighbors to get to know neighbors,” Demeree said.
The Day of Celebration was the latest sign of rejuvenation for the West End Neighborhood Association, following a few years of inactivity. The neighborhood itself has undergone a lot of change in the past few years, as new affordable housing projects have pulled in new faces along with the new streetscapes.
“The community has become much safer, but we don’t know each other,” Demeree said. “We thought food and music might do the trick.”
After completing a neighborhood survey to determine the kind of community-building activity that would most appeal to residents, the neighborhood association secured funding for the Day of Celebration from NeighborWorks and Duke University’s Office of Community Affairs. The Durham Giving Project, a Duke student-led course, also raised money for the event.
India Dennis, the West End resident who organized the Day of Celebration, said she hopes holding the event annually will build new momentum for the neighborhood’s re-invigorated efforts.
“We are trying to think ahead about how to really build community,” she said, as West End neighborhood children scrambled onto the stage behind her, to dance. “And we wanted to give the kids something to remember, something to get nostalgic about.”