Southside residents celebrated their heritage last week during ¡Pa’lante Juntos!, the Green Light District Summit 2012. From exhibits of Latino artwork, to a tour of business and community centers in the neighborhood, to seminars on healthy living, neighbors old and new had much to explore. The series of events began on Tuesday, October 9th and culminated with a music-filled festival on Saturday, October 13th.
El Puente, a human rights institution dedicated to promoting leadership in Los Sures (the Southside), created the Green Light District (GLD) in September, 2011. The far-reaching ten-year project spearheads initiatives to bring positive changes to Williamsburg’s Latino community, while also preserving that culture for future generations. “The GLD came about because there’ve been many changes in the demographics of Williamsburg, and we’re trying to empower Latinos to be at the forefront of these changes,” said GLD Director Anusha Venkataraman.
“[The GLD] is about creating a holistic environment for the Southside and pushing community-based sustainability,” explained Jason Otaño, Chair of the GLD’s Affordable Living Committee. “We work in the arts, affordable living, education, the environment and wellness.” Since its inception, the GLD has created green initiatives, built a network of Latino artists, and improved education and health of Los Sures residents. All these accomplishments were celebrated during the Summit.
“The Summit is a look back at our first year of implementation and the success of our projects. It was also about looking towards next year’s goals of becoming a sustainable, equitable community,” said Venkataraman.
“[The Summit] was an exciting week filled with great, informative events and seminars,” said Otaño. “It also was a chance to showcase our talent and celebrate our culture.” Festivities began with smArtAction, an exhibit of artists and activists and their battle to sustain the University of Puerto Rico during severe program cuts in 2010 and 2011.
Event organizers also ensured both entertainment and a musical education with the WEPA! Fesitval. “It was important for WEPA! to be open to the public,” explained Venkataraman. “People could see dancing and Latino music in the streets. Many people who visit Williamsburg don’t realize [this culture] is a thriving part of the community.”
On Saturday, GLD members relaxed and mingled at the Summit after-party. “We wanted to evoke a coming-together, through the words ¡Pa’lante Juntos!,” said Venkataraman. (Roughly translated, the phrase means “Let’s All Go Forward!”) Hosted by UnionDocs, a Williamsburg center for documentary art, the party featured a performance from Brooklyn-based Pan-Latin dance band Analog Experimental and a screening of a documentary about the Broadway Triangle.
GLD members also got to meet the resident artists of UnionDocs, who are recent Williamsburg arrivals. Because the GLD illustrates how older residents and newcomers to the neighborhood have more in common than perceived, the closing party exemplified this cohesion.
“There’s so much great art coming out of Williamburg’s new scene,” remarked Venkataraman. “People who move here bring fresh ideas and resources, and the Green Light District is about facilitating that moment of exchange between cultures. We want to bridge both parts of Williamsburg.”
For more information on El Puente and the Green Light District, please visit elpuente.us/greenlight.html
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