New Hope Church, the Zone One Police Station, and Kitchen of Grace teamed up for the first ever Community Unity Day in Marshall-Shadeland. It’s a call for peace in the neighborhood’s streets.

By Zach Armstrong

A free event full of face painting, clowns, cotton candy, vendors, a military equipment display, and more: This is how a sense of unity was conjured on the Northside with “Community Unity Day for Peace in the Streets” at Horace Mann Field on July 6.

New Hope Church and Zone One Police Station partnered with Kitchen of Grace for the event with the goal of creating unity and peace between local residents.

“There is so much chaos going on in our community, in our world and between our youth and police,” said Kitchen of Grace Founder, Lateresa Blackwell. “We just want to break down those barriers and create peace within our community.”

A bouncy house was one of the draws for the first-ever Community Unity Day. Photo by Zach Armstrong

In addition to musical performances, tents around Horace Mann Field were set up for food vendors and local businesses. Sweet treats from Niecy’s Desserts, prints from Jo Ann Elliott-Pugh Artwork, quilts from Quilt Style and dress clothes fit for young boys from Giggling Gentlemen were on sale to attendees from some local start-ups.

“Events like this give small businesses an opportunity to get exposure with the community and also to promote community efforts,” said Karen Womack, owner of Quilt Style. “Often I’ll have online customers who don’t realize my business is only a mile away.”

Officers from the Zone One Police Station and the Pittsburgh Police Bomb Squad set up tents to promote one of the event’s central messages: Law enforcement is here to protect us and shouldn’t be feared. The bomb squad displayed explosives and military equipment for kids to touch and observe including cannonballs, improvised explosive devices, and a bullet from the world’s largest machine gun. Police officers showed children how to do fingerprinting as would be done in a police investigation.

“It’s important for police officers to not only solve problems but interact with the community on a friendly basis,” said Detective John Adams.

The Pittsburgh Police Bomb Squad displayed explosives. Photo by Zach Armstrong

The event comes at a time when local tragedies have recently shaken up residents. In June, a 15-year-old was charged in a shooting that occurred on Plough Street, one block away from Horace Mann Field, leaving another teenager paralyzed. There have also been recent drug overdoses affecting local youths that occurred on the same field that Unity Day took place.

“Simply because we live here and we see everyday some of the hardships endured by our neighbors, we wanted to just do something and show a little bit of love to the people around us.” said Blackwell.