by Dr. Lindy Backues
On Saturday, June 13th, 2015, Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC) put on an event filled with color, culture, fun, dancing, music, and joy. Given the name Passport Day, with a subheading, “yours to discover,” the event featured the serving up of fresh foods from many countries such as Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, China, Vietnam, and even the US territory of Puerto Rico, as well as various musical acts, cultural games, contests, and dances both in the way of performances as well as collective dance-alongs in the street! There was also a dunk tank where quite a few individuals were plunged into cold water thanks to the throwing ability of those who paid to have the chance of seeing them go under. It was a wonderful, all-day affair, something that rocked the area and attracted on-lookers and spontaneous participants to join in.
The goal of the event was two-fold. The event was designed to emphasize unity, sharing, and mutual appreciation, that through a time of celebration, fun, and festivities, PPC, its building and premises might serve as a vehicle in the neighborhood for bringing together a diverse number of communities in order to share and learn from each other. This part of the goal was achieved to a degree even beyond initial hopes, so much so that the leadership of PPC are seriously considering making it an annual event of celebration and unity. The second part of the goal was to raise funds for a neighborhood beautification project including a mural. Through food sales and charging for games participated in, over $2,000 in funds were raised for the mural project attached to the church building located at 1701 McKean Street in South Philadelphia, this project will be completed in cooperation with Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Also, 10 percent of the proceeds will go to survivors impacted by the earthquake in Nepal in April. The hope is that the mural project might serve to beautify the location and the PPC building, becoming an icon of hope for the development of strong communities, serving as an inspiration and a point of connection to our surroundings. It is also hoped that an improved building can serve as a catalyst toward local economic development, helping to attract interest on the part of tourists and visitors to the neighborhood. PPC was greatly encouraged by the significant start made by just one day of fun, festivities, and celebration.
Several participants gave testimony to their own sense of enjoyment related to the day and its events. For instance, one person stated that “…the event was a wonderful way to showcase the diversity of the community! I loved the activities, the variety of food and the overall friendly atmosphere of Passport Day. Looking forward to it being an annual tradition.” Chenora Scott exclaimed that she and her family “…REALLY enjoyed the event. The children enjoyed it as well. We found [it to be] educational and very welcoming. The cause…brought awareness to a serious issue…[and] truly gave off a family vibe….We would love to attend [in the future].” Event staff member Donna Backues – who led the Indonesian batik design classes – felt this way: “The part I loved the best about Passport Day was being able to play and work together with the other ethnic groups represented in the community. I think as far as community outreach is concerned, this is one of the most effective ways since it is not just our church helping the community, but it’s the rest of the community participating with the church to do something together and something fun.” It was a grand success – PPC looks forward to repeating it in the future.
Dr. Lindy Backues worships at Philadelphia Praise Center and is a Professor at Eastern University.