Lori regularly opens her Central Area home to anyone who wants to work in a free co-working space, Collective Self. She and her friend, Knox Gardner, also brought the neighborhood the event Hopscotch CD, by involving many other contributing individuals and groups.
Hopscotch started as a small event and it grew, could you talk about that?
The idea came from my friend Knox Gardner who lives just off Jackson Street. He heard about HopscotchDetroit, they attempted to set a record for the world’s longest Hopscotch path (four miles) and they did it. As I was doing interviews, I kept hearing about Knox from different people who didn’t know each other. Then he emailed to say he was thinking about this Hopscotch event… so that was a sign that I should do something with Knox, even though I hadn’t even met him yet.
So, we started thinking about Hopscotch CD in February, posted in the Central District News to ask if people wanted to help. We asked our neighbors. Then, five or six people got together. We wanted it to be about getting to know each other. This is a neighborhood with an extraordinary number of busy people: a lot of technology people who work 60-80 hours a week because that’s just part of the gig, or instead people working three jobs while taking care of kids and parents.
The event wasn’t going to be about making a 4-mile Hopscotch path, we wanted to do a semi-circle from Jackson to Union. I wanted to do from 18th-23rd Avenues along Union Street because that’s my stretch of the neighborhood. Knox wanted to do MLK and then down Jackson. Originally, he wanted it to work with the SeattleGreenways program.
The part of the Hopscotch path connecting Jackson to Union followed the Seattle Greenways’ proposed Central Seattle Greenway, with one minor deviation so that the path would cross Jefferson safely at an existing crosswalk. We started meeting and getting ideas of what we should do for an event. We just wanted it to be fun and playful, that’s enough. If you can get people to play together, to have fun together they can add to the event themselves.
Not everyone sees it like that, not everyone wants to have fun, and not everyone wants to get to know the neighbors, either. For us both the motivation was to meet other neighbors, to build community and all that comes with that.
We started by asking people if they wanted to participate by doing things along the route. We applied for a Small and Simple Grant but didn’t get the grant until mere moments before the event, so expenses were all out of pocket. Now, we’re getting reimbursed for that, which is really nice.
We had a small group of people laying 2-miles of Hopscotch path so we took a Block Captain approach and asked people to take ownership of their own blocks. That worked well everywhere except Jackson because of the big businesses there. Union Street is small businesses and homes. The core organizers of Hopscotch knew those businesses, so the business owners totally embraced the event. They went way above and beyond to participate. Katy’s Coffee did a rummage sale on Union, they had balloon artists and buckets of sidewalk chalk and had neighbors who did face painting. Alex at 20/20 Cycle had a vintage clothing sale on the sidewalk. A chiropractor did free adjustments and gave out coupons. Meter Music School participated. Fisher and Shawn of Alley Cat Acres brought fresh eggs from their chickens and made breakfast all day for people. Jean Tinnea, who is a long long time resident who did the neighborhood garden tour for over a decade, and her friend Mary Pat organized a Flea Market. They’re raising money for a Central District Public Arts project. Magpie Clothing participated too. They all embraced it and loved it.
Still, what really made the event big was the Central District Association’s Derryl and Sharon Durden. They were long time Central District residents, wonderful human beings. They used to own a bunch of property in the area, like the Neighbor Lady building. The Durdens figured out what they could do for Hopscotch though they don’t even live in the neighborhood anymore.
The Central District Association decided to do something big on Union and their friend Angela Knight, a firecracker of a human being, pulled together in three weeks a carnival in the parking lot of Med Mix. It was amazing, the most fun carnival I’ve ever been to: they had fire trucks, they had a bouncy boxing ring with huge soft gloves, they had magicians, all this stuff for kids.
It was great fun. They really helped us make inroads into the African-American community and into the kid-community. Angela had friends at Garfield High School who got posters made, got students to come and help, and to show up the day of the event. That was really nice and it just sort of bloomed from there.
There were yard sales. The Lake Washington Girls School got involved. Centerstone had a pop-up adventure play and free hot dogs in their parking lot. The Block Captain, there, Kenton, did an attempt at a Guinness Book of World records for the most people hopscotching at the same time. They needed 380 people and they got 330. It was so much fun.
I knew it would be fun to hopscotch with kids, but hopscotching with other adults in a parking lot with 300 plus people, it was so much fun. We just showed up at there but the Guinness Records people require it to have a sign-in sheet, contact information with 300 people in this space. Kenton set up about a hundred courts for 4 person teams. By the time we finished signing people in and I went to join my team, I noticed that the whole parking lot had been decorated with sidewalk chalk. People had decorated their own courts and it was just awesome. One group had numbered their squares with animals that increased in size, so it started with a worm as Number 1 with number 10 was a dinosaur. It was just cool.
How did that shift you experience of living here in this neighborhood?
The biggest thing for me was making new friends from the process of organizing the event, not even the event itself. Far more important than the event itself is the sheer number of people we know. That has exploded. (Lori stops speaking for a moment to cry) It was really awesome.
I was really struck that day at how amazing this neighborhood is with the variety of people here. We are really lucky to have a ton of people here from East Africa. Even after the event it was fun to keep getting pictures of hopscotching. We used a flour and cornstarch for the hopscotch grid that was supposed to go away after 3 rains. As it turns out, Detroit rains are much heavier so that equals about 10 Seattle rains. It will go away eventually. Weeks after the event people were sending us pictures people on the hopscotch path. One Sunday there was a photo in front of Immaculate Conception Church. There was a First Communion of a little girl from the Filipino community wearing a dress that looked like a wedding dress. She’s hopscotching in this big dress with her little brother who’s a little formal suit with a tie and a vest.
A neighbor sent it to me as she was watching the family try to get the kids to take a formal event picture but the kids just kept hopscotching away in their fancy outfits. We were sent a lot of photos of people in front of Swedish Hospital, one in particular was of a girl with a broken leg. Her African-American was family hopscotching behind her in a wheelchair.