A park straddling the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Highland has two names — officially, Columbus Park. Colloquially, La Raza Park. It’s historically significant for the Hispanic majority that has dominated Sunnyside and Highland for decades. Right now, the park is surrounded by some of the fastest change in Denver.
Sunday, it was the venue for an event that created “friction, but positive friction,” as one volunteer, Will Martin, described it.
The Stompin’ Ground Games mixed low-riders, public art and cookies, of course, to create fun but serious conversations about the cultural impact of neighborhood change on local communities.
“These events provide information and, more importantly, healing,” said Gerardo Lopez, member of the gang violence prevention organization Homies Unidos. “I want to see kids that look like me, you — everyone — playing together.”
The event drew approximately 140 Denver residents from neighborhoods across the city.
“Stompin’ Ground Games allows people to explore the city more, but in a less predatory way,” event organizer, Evan Weissman, explained.
Attendees were invited to participate in the event by speaking about change and compiling a list of strengths — pride, sense of home and beauty and worries for the local community — and a list of worries, which artist Bobby LeFebre of We Are North Denver pointed out was longer. Those included disproportionate representation, affordable housing, accountability (for gentrification) and culture loss.
Not all effects of gentrification are as big as displacement and forgotten culture, as Jolt, a local artist and owner of Guerilla Garden, pointed out.
“My family would never spend $7 on beer,” he said. “And we come from a front-porch community. How can you say hello to your neighbors if they are on a balcony or rooftop above you?”
The Stompin’ Ground Games is a monthly event held in different neighborhoods hosted by Warm Cookies of the Revolution, founded in 2012 by Weissman, who is a performer and activist. He says Warm Cookies doesn’t aim to halt gentrification. Instead, the organization hopes to bring together groups that otherwise may not have the opportunity to engage in such candid conversation.
In fact, Warm Cookies quantifies success by event reach — the whole point of “the games” is to host a civic-minded neighborhood throw-down. At the end of the year, the organization tallies event attendance and determines a winning neighborhood.
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