Annapolis neighbors see hope planted

Robinwood party begins safety push

April 23, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

For 10-year-old Paris Lyles, the gathering in his Annapolis neighborhood was about balloons, burgers and bubble gum. But for his mother, Quintina Curtis, it was a chance to plant flowers and commune with neighbors about building relationships in a sometimes-troubled community.

"We need this. It helps kids understand how to keep the community clean, and they will appreciate it," Curtis said. "And we need something positive in this community to bring everyone together to form a support group to make things happen."

The block party yesterday was a small part of a bigger plan for Robinwood, a public housing neighborhood that Anne Arundel County and Annapolis officials are focusing on in an effort to stem violence.

Earlier this year, after a spate of shootings that police said grew out of neighborhood rivalries, County Executive John R. Leopold and Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer launched a joint effort to flood the Robinwood community with youth initiatives and other programs.

The party - billed as "Planting New Relationships" - was the kickoff. It was attended by about 60 people, more of them volunteers than residents.

"It's a great beginning," Moyer said. "It's like a big family reunion. We're building a sense of community pride and learning to work together."

Paris and his friend, Da'Shawn Bell, 9, took Moyer's words to heart.

Over potted zinnias they took turns digging the soil, making room for the red and orange flowers.

"You dig a hole for that one and I'll dig a hole for this one," Da'Shawn said, pointing to the zinnias.

The dirt began to fly on Da'Shawn's command of "get up, get up," and soon enough he uncovered an earthworm.

"That's going to help the soil," he said, pulling the worm from the dirt. "I'm going to put it in the flower pot."

With the help of Ricky Berry, a volunteer from Light of the World Family Ministries, the church group that coordinated the event, the pair tucked their flowers into the soil and headed off for more work.

As the flowers and plants were being put in place and Christian hip-hop blared from speakers, neighbors and volunteers milled about, eating and taking in the sunshine.

The Rev. Sheryl Menendez, pastor of Light of the World, said her church will remain active in Robinwood, where she has been working for three years.

Model community

Home to about 430 low-income residents, the neighborhood is in the southwest corner of Maryland's capital city. Government officials and neighborhood leaders are hoping to turn Robinwood into a model community and then expand their efforts to other troubled areas.

"We want to make this community nice for people, and the faith-based community needs to be involved," Menendez said. "We have to show that folks don't just show up when some foolishness goes on."

By the end of the day, Rosalind Brown, 61, who has been living in Robinwood for almost four decades, was especially glad she decided to show up for the planting and partying.

Raffle winner

Her name came up as a raffle winner - her prize was having her front lawn landscaped.

"Amen, Amen! Thirty-seven years down here and now I'm getting my yard done," she said, waving her hands in the air. "Just to open up my door and have something joyful. It will be a blessing."

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