Morgan Park residents gathered at Ada Park located at 11250 S. Ada St. on Saturday to celebrate the 36th annual Morgan Park Roots Festival.
The purpose of the community gathering is to unite neighborhood members and foster an atmosphere of harmony.
Roots was co-founded by 12 Morgan Park residents in 1976 and Helen Warren is the only living original co-founder. She is extremely proud of the legacy Roots has forged in the community.
The Roots festival is overseen by a larger organization, the Morgan Park Community Roots Organization. Warren is the executive director of the organization which regularly performs community service throughout the neighborhood including providing food for senior citizens and donating Christmas toys to students at John B. Shoop School.
“This our way of giving back to our community,” Warren told the Chicago Citizen. “We are not government funded and we do not get any grants. Everything that we do mainly comes from the community, the community organization (or) out of our own pockets.”
Warren’s daughter, Sandra Warren-Holder described to the Chicago Citizen her earliest memories of the Roots festival.
“I was in eighth grade when it started…of course at that age I was more interested in the kids’ activities that were happening. There were pony rides, face painting, clowns, balloons…just a real big celebration of children, of family, community and just celebrating us as African American people.”
Warren-Holder says that the festival is still relevant today.
“Even more so than ever we really need to have a sense of Black unity. With the unemployment rate that we have, given the plague that we have around violence in the community…children dropping out of school…this festival brings everyone together. It’s more relevant today than it’s ever been because there’s a new generation of children coming up that need to know and experience what this is about. This is clearly a legacy that my mother is leaving behind.”
Felicia Davis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first deputy chief of staff presented Warren with a proclamation from the mayor heralding Roots’ longtime connection with Morgan Park.
“We’re all connected and I don’t think we should lose sight of that,” Davis told festival goers after presenting the proclamation. “We are all connected to one another. The young people in our community belong to all of us and their futures are our futures.”
Davis is also Warren’s niece and she vividly remembers attending the festival as a child.
“My family has been involved with Roots for so long,” she told the Chicago Citizen. “I have so many memories.”
Davis also echoed Warren-Holder on the festival’s importance. She said many of the issues facing communities’ stems from lack of community.
“If you come together it makes you familiar with one another, you know who the people are on your block, you know who the people are in your community so that’s why events like this are so important,” Davis said.
By Thelma Sardin