Block party to offer racial mixer theme Korean ministry offers fellowship, food to black neighborhood

October 08, 1998|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Seven years ago, Myong Kim went driving around Baltimore in search of the city's worst-looking street. It didn't take long for the Korean businessman to find the 1800 block of N. Castle St., littered with shattered bottles and discarded needles.

Kim's mission in East Baltimore had found a launching pad.

Since then, Kim and other Koreans from his Jubilee Praise and Worship Ministries in Towson have visited mostly black neighborhoods to clean up, enjoy fellowship with residents, and foster better relations in a city often scarred by friction between the two groups. The ministry, which has about 20 members, will be holding its third block party in East Baltimore at noon Oct. 24.

For three hours, residents of the 1100 block of Rutland Ave. can enjoy live gospel music, eat hot dogs and meet with about 150 volunteers from the ministry and New Covenant Fellowship, a Christian Korean church in Rockville. About eight Korean dry cleaners have offered to donate clothes to be given away during the party.

"The black residents don't have many chances to be around Koreans, only at grocery stores," Kim said. "This is a different opportunity; we can talk and understand each other, not through business, but through fellowship."

Not everyone welcomed the initiative, and some community leaders suggested that Kim should have reached out to them first.

Shanette Curtis, 14, who lives on Rutland Avenue, said the block party might give people something to do, but it won't make any significant changes. "There have been block parties around here before, and it's still the same," she said, pointing to the boarded-up rowhouses and littered sidewalks.

Lucille Gorham, director of the Middle East Community Organization, which covers the area bordered by Broadway, Patterson Park Avenue, Madison Street and Biddle Street, said residents seem to be in favor of the block party, but she wishes Kim had worked with her organization to plan the festivities. With more notice, Gorham said she would have tried to get local churches more involved.

"There's no communication between the services Mr. Kim renders and the churches," she said.

Kim said he would contact pastors before the block party. It would be up to them to carry on the fellowship he starts, he said.

The Rev. Melvin Tuggle, head of Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore (CURE), said the block party would be more effective had the Korean ministry worked with his organization. Because CURE knows the community better, Tuggle said, it could have made sure the resources were distributed to those who needed them, rather than a free-for-all.

"Their intentions are good, but their process isn't the right way to do it," Tuggle said.

Kim said the block party would cost the ministry about $4,500, excluding the clothing. "We believe this is the best way and the only way to help people," he said.

Kim said the ministry held a block party May 30 on the 1800 block of N. Castle St., along with several other groups, and another there seven years ago. In May, Kim said, about 1,000 people showed up.

Theresa Oliver, who lives on that block, said many of her neighbors took part in the festivities. "It was nicely done, and I'm quite sure the people they helped appreciate it," she said.

To make sure the Korean ministry would be welcome in the predominantly African-American neighborhood, Maj. James Hawkins, commander of the Police Department's Eastern District, said police polled area residents.

"It was unanimous, they were in favor of it," he said.

Mike Miller, who lives on Rutland Avenue and works at night, said he thinks the block party is a good idea, although the festivities may keep him awake. The party, he said, will give children something good to do.

Sgt. Marvin Froneberger, community relations officer with the Eastern District, said the event promises to be socially fruitful.

"The more fellowship there is between the Korean community and the African-American community, the more they will understand one another."

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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