Growing up, I remember staring at my grandmother as she watched the 6 p.m. news, shaking her head and scorning the television.
"It takes a village to raise a child," she said. "Lord have mercy. It takes a whole village!"
It seemed there was a story about a child being killed, locked up at an early age or caught doing something wrong on the news all the time. Her response still rings in my ears today.
"It takes a village to raise a child."
Brenda Metzger and the E. 73rd Street Community Club are living that idea every day.
In July 2010, the City of Cleveland’s first free-standing KABOOM playground was erected on East 73rd Street in the Central neighborhood.
Brenda Metzger, the leading lady of the project, brought to life her latehusband’s desire to bring hope to the children in their neighborhood. No matter how far fetched it seemed, Metzger pursued until she had a finished product. She had help from the life insurance company Foresters, Burten Bell Car Development Inc., KABOOM and countless volunteers — including members of the international leadership organization, the Give1 Project.
Two years later, Metzger and the East 73rd Street Community Club have not ceased their work with the completion of the playground. They are active in imparting tangible skills, values and providing a nest of nurture to the children in the neighborhood.
"This playground is a safe haven for these children," Metzger said. "They know that when they come here they will be safe.”
"It is a place of manners and respect," she continued. "The children at this point correct the newcomers that do not know the protocol of this playground.”
She smiled as she remembered children telling a new playmate, “NO! We don’t do that here. Mrs. Brenda don’t play that cussin’ and fightin’.”
She ended with a joyful chuckle in saying, “If we take the time to teach them, then they will teach each other.”
It is not just a playground but a place where the children can garden; learn the strategy and patience of chess on the painted bench tables; double dutch or hop scotch with Metzger; learn how to fix things with Mr. G.; or even read and eat popsicles with Mrs. Mattie. Programs are planned and implemented with an intentional communal approach.
From 2 – 6 p.m. on June 23, the team is hosting an event called Juneteenth. Basheer Jones will be the keynote speaker. There will be free food, family activities, free HIV/AIDS testing and much more, all happening on E. 73rd Street at the Central KABOOM playground.
It is just not a playground, it's part of a village — a village protecting and raising children together.
Article written by Shardé Lackey, a native Clevelander and student at Case Western Reserve University's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.