Payne Park block party preaches nonviolence
PAWTUCKET – With every picture she takes out of the box, Melissa DaRosa’s heart breaks just a little bit more.
Inside the box are more than 100 images of smiling, laughing faces, but what the people in those pictures share in common is that their lives ended all too soon. Whether it was from a gun, domestic violence, or drunk driving, these 100-plus people will never know the future that lay ahead for them.
Yet on Friday afternoon, despite the heartbreak from looking at those photographs, DaRosa worked into the evening to hang the pictures with a mason jar which was partially filled with glitter and a single candle. The memorials adorned a chainlink fence inside Payne Park in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood, as part of today’s nonviolence community block party.
“I’m crying for 72 hours, since I’ve been taking the pictures out of the box,” DaRosa says before pausing. “I wish I’d never have to look at those pictures again.”
“For you to have a healthy community,” she explained of the purpose of today’s block party and the memorial fence inside the park. “We have to entertain each other, educate each other, sustain each other, and grieve together. This encompasses what a beloved community is supposed to look like.”
DaRosa, the founder of the community group Knowledge is Power, says that the block party
started 10 years ago as a nonviolence candlelight vigil in support of the lives lost to street violence. But over the years, more people have approached her and asked
if their loved ones could be memorialized, even if they weren’t victims of street violence.
“Now it’s a community candlelit vigil,” she said. “We represent all of the people we’ve lost.”
What’s most important, DaRosa explains, is that the impact of the memorial wall could reach the community’s youngest and most vulnerable residents. Her hope is that “some elementary kids
are able to get something out of it.”
“Those are the moments when I realize how important the vigil and event is in the community,” she said. “It empowers families. Some don’t know what to do when they’re affected … This keeps those memories alive.”
Prior to today’s block party, a parade for unity, love, art, culture, and peace will step off at 1 p.m. from 10 Rocks at 1091 Main St. and proceed to Payne Park, where the festivities will go until 8 p.m. The scheduled fun and games includes basketball, live entertainment, music, inflatable bounce houses, and food.
The memorial wall will be celebrated around 7 tonight with a moment of silence, roses, poetry, and a ceremonial releasing of balloons into the twilight sky.
Kathy DaSilva, the president of Knowledge is Power, said the goal is to bring awareness to the issue of street violence in Pawtucket.
“A lot of the families will grieve and we grieve as a community. People from the east and west, both sides, have a really good day by healing and remembering and bringing peace to the community,” DaSilva said.
DaSilva, who now resides in Cranston, said that even though she may not physically live within the confines of the city, her heart will forever be in Pawtucket. When asked where in the city she grew up, DaSilva said it’s not about where you were raised, but instead it’s about “one Pawtucket, Pawtucket strong.”
“We’re never separated. We’re never divided. Every side of Pawtucket, it’s too small to divide,” she said. “There’s no east, there’s no west, it’s one Pawtucket.”
Organizers prepare the memorial fence at last year’s nonviolence community block party at Payne Park. This year’s event takes place today.