A community celebrates July 4 | Moment's Notice

By Maria A. Montalvo | Jul 06, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel

Each year, the 4th of July brings communities across the United States of America together to celebrate our declaration of independence.

Growing up in Philadelphia, we often celebrated the 4th with hundreds of thousands of our neighbors at the annual parade and festivities.

I remember the first time my brother and I were allowed to go with friends, excited to find a place in the grass along the parkway, wedged in among throngs of revelers proud to be together in the place where the Declaration was actually signed.

I felt like I was part of a community that shared revolutionary DNA and had to celebrate big or go home.

Here in Edmonds, we are a very different, very special community. We create the feeling of a small-town 4th despite the size of the city, with two downtown parades, and invite everyone to participate in a fireworks show that is kicked off by music and dancing in the middle of Civic Park.

I have become accustomed to different traditions, the hot dogs and homemade popsicles on the lawn, the candy thrown to parade-goers from a classic car or fire truck, and running into dozens of friends throughout the day.

The big 4th of July celebrations of my youth gave me a sense of significance appropriate for the birthplace of a nation, but before I was old enough to participate in those, I remember our family staying home and lighting sparklers outside our duplex with the families on our block.

Our block was in the Philadelphia community of Mount Airy, one of the first successfully integrated neighborhoods in America.

Mount Airy was a community created by residents who organized to resist blockbusting (investors encouraging panic over home values based on racial integration and force sellers to sell low and buyers of to buy high) and redlining (communities restrict home purchasing in certain areas by race), racist real estate policies still openly practiced in the 1970s when we moved there – and that persisted here in Washington into the 1980s.

I did not know my community was a strategically blended neighborhood recognized for its racial diversity, harmony, and neighborhood appeal. I knew I was able to invite my friends, Lynn (Korean), Jennifer (African-American), and Lauren (Caucasian) over for Puerto Rican rice and beans.

I knew the Robinsons across the street, an African-American couple, would give me tea when we sat on their plastic-covered couches, and that several of the neighborhood dads once revived Mr. Robinson after a heart attack.

I knew that we were allowed to put up wooden barricades to close down the street once a summer for block parties, and that all of the neighborhood kids would play red light, green light while the adults sat in blue-and-white or red-and-white plastic-weave folding chairs.

I loved that community. And even though by the time I was 8 I knew we did not all just get along, I hoped for more communities like mine.

The 4th of July we just celebrated is a good reminder that the United States of America has so many communities that often divide us – from our home states to our political affiliations to our familial roots – but I believe that the definition of community, the public or society focused on the needs of the community of humanity, is the one that makes us exceptional as Americans.


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