The second annual Darbo-Worthington Peace Walk and Block party will take place today from 1-8 p.m. at Worthington Park on Madison’s east side.
The Peace Walk portion of the event will begin at 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army’s Darbo Center. Participants will march along the bike path to Bridges Golf Course, about three miles away. The walk aims to bring visibility to the Darbo area itself and the challenges it faces. Darbo-Worthington is a tiny neighborhood tucked away behind Highway 30 and E. Washington Ave on Madison’s east side and it is easy for people to ride past it and neglect the issues residents endure daily.
“Darbo is a food desert. We don’t have a lot of good, healthy places where we can go eat and grocery shop” says Will Green, one of the event’s organizers and founder of Mentoring Positives, a group that works with young people in the Darbo/Worthington area. “[Residents] are shopping at the Walgreens and the Mobil. That’s not good.”
After participants return from the Peace Walk, the Madison Police Department will sponsor a bike rodeo for children to ride through the neighborhood that will begin at 2 p.m. at Worthington Park. An indirect benefit of the event is strengthening relationships between the community and the police. Green is acutely aware of the tension that exists between officers and the African-American community and he appreciates the officers in the neighborhood that prioritize building relationships with the residents they serve.
“Lester Moore [Darbo-Worthington’s neighborhood officer] approaches policing in a different way,” Green says. “He likes to get to know people and talk through their issues. He’s been a good fit for the neighborhood and he is able to connect in a way that some officers cannot.”
Moore has worked in Darbo since 2013. As a neighborhood officer, Moore focuses his work on establishing connections with residents, problem-solving, and developing long-term solutions to issues. Officer Moore agrees that police officers should take an active role in building authentic relationships between people and the police.
“As public servants, it’s on us to reach out to the community since we are supposed to be serving them,” Moore tells Madison365. “It’s our job to find out why there is a lack of trust. [Police officers] need to take a look at the history between communities and police departments to figure out what they as an individual officer can do to restore some of that trust.”
After the bike rodeo, the block party will kick off at 4 p.m. with a concert at Worthington Park. Performers include DJ Salinger, SOULMEN, 1neofmani and the Wilder Dietz Group. Food carts will be available for attendees to purchase food while they enjoy the music. Green hopes that the event will spur conversations among Darbo residents and promote more community ownership among residents.
“People have to start coming to the table and voicing their opinions,” he says. “I’m hopeful this event will bring people out and connect them, especially with the music and the food carts.”
Several local groups co-sponsor the festivities including Mentoring Positives, Carts for Community, the Dane County Department of Human Services, the Worthington Park Neighborhood Association, the East High School Black Music Ensemble, the Salvation Army, and Women of Worthington.
The Darbo-Worthington Peace Walk and Block Party helps the greater Madison community finally see Darbo as a community defined by its residents and not by the narrative that outsiders construct.
“[Mentoring Positives] has been in the neighborhood over the past 12 years and I’ve seen a lot of positive change, but we still have a lot of challenges,” Green says. “People use [Darbo-Worthington] as a space to do a lot of negative things; people that don’t even live there. Then [the troublemakers] leave, and we have to deal with the repercussions of those negative images. But Thursday is all about sending the kids back to school on a positive note and giving the neighborhood a grand stage that it oftentimes does not get.”
For more information on the Darbo-Worthington Peace Walk and Block Party, visit their Facebook page.