By Lonnie Barlow, Organizer, PUSH Buffalo
When it’s all said and done, the summer of 2013 in Buffalo could probably be remembered as the summer of neighborhood festivals and mini-festivals.
This was certainly the case on the West Side. There seemed to be something going on every week, and in some instances events happening at the same time. There was the Taste of Diversity Festival, the Stop the Violence Community Luau, Play Streets, the 19th St Block Party, the Buffalo Myanmar Water Festival, the Buffalo Caribbean Parade/Festival and many others, and this weekend brings another open invitation to a neighborhood party.
I remember one summer a few years ago when I was visiting in NYC for a week on business, staying with my friend’s mom who lived in the Bronx. I had to report to work every day to an organization located in Spanish Harlem, taking the train from Pelham Bay Station in the Bronx to Harlem back and forth every day while I was there.
The 6 train takes you from Harlem to the Bronx and back, approximately a 45-minute train ride. Part of the train ride takes you above ground on an elevated bridge through the boroughs. This way, I could look down upon neighborhood happenings, and one of the things I noticed while riding the train was all the different neighborhood carnivals that were happening along the route. After a few stops, this neighborhood was having a carnival equipped with a Ferris wheel, game stands, and other portable amusement type rides; a few more stops and another neighborhood was doing the same thing.
Later in the week down in Spanish Harlem, the neighborhood located around where I had to report was setting up shop for a neighborhood carnival. I thought it was being set up as part of the scene of the movie that was being filmed in the neighborhood that week, but I was told that it was something they do annually. I was even invited to the salsa dance that weekend (a part of this carnival) in the neighborhood concert hall.
There are countless regular citizens that have been throwing community-building events for years on Buffalo’s West Side, but who have largely flown under the radar. Take for instance, David Figueroa.
Originally from Puerto Rico, David came to Buffalo nearly 50 years ago. He has been a member of PUSH Buffalo for about 2 years, and is also a longtime Buffalo musician who has been throwing a community pig roast on his property for the last 15 years. There is a lot next to his 15th St. home that he owns where the party largely takes place. He started it as a labor of love – “a jam session, something for the musicians,” he explains.
David is a drummer who plays traps and congas. His event for the past few years had taken place on the same day as the Buffalo Funk Fest – a festival that in part celebrates the life of Buffalo punk-funk legend Rick James. In years past, his friends would come and jam out with him at his pig roast right after they visited Funk Fest. This year, both events are not on the same day so it opens it up for more people to participate.
I took a look around David’s in-home musical recording/practicing area – he has some serious tools to get the party started. “I know a lot of musicians – we’ll be playing everything from rock, to jazz, to whatever, we do it all,” he said.
While not trying to compare Buffalo to New York City, which has anywhere from 8-12 million people depending on what time of day it is, I noticed something while on that weeklong trip. And, being a lifelong Buffalo resident, I think that I’m starting to notice something here. Sustainability includes having good healthy communications with your neighbors – is there a better way to do that than with free food and live music? I think not.
The musical pig roast takes place this Saturday August 31st, 2013 at 242 15th St on Buffalo’s West Side. This is across the street from PUSH Buffalo’s community garden and mural in memory of organizer Ray Jackson. The food starts cooking at about 3pm, while the music starts around 6pm. Dave has extended his hand to local musicians, music lovers, and community residents – all are welcome to attend. If you’re a musician, he especially wants you. “It’s open to the public,” he said. “One year, some African residents who were musicians showed up to play and they asked if they could get on, I said, ‘Yes.’”
Hope to see you there!