As originally published on iBerkshires.com
By Andy McKeever
Friday, June 8, 2012
Six months after a murder shook up the Morningside neighborhood and brought negative press, neighbors came together to show they are proud of where they live.
The eighth annual Morningside Pride Night on Thursday attracted hundreds to Morningside Elementary School — the largest crowd organizers have seen. The event provides children with games and activities while service organizations provide information to the parents. The goal, according to organizer Peter White, is to celebrate the area in which they live.
“It’s the neighborhood coming together. It’s a lot of fun and it connects people with resources in the neighborhood,” White said. “We get a negative spin sometimes so we wanted to say ‘hey, we love it here.’”
With music, a dance show from the KidZone Dance team, face painting and a bounce house, children were occupied. Parents were able to get information from organizations such as the Berkshire County sheriff’s department, Berkshire Health Systems and the city’s Parks Department. The event is a twist on National Night Out, White said.
“We wanted to make it our own event,” White said. “We just keep building it.”
The first few events received some funding from the Police Department via federal grant money. However, those funds dried up and the Morningside Initiative took it over. Later, the Morningside Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization partnered in running the program.
“I am particularly fond and proud of this one … This is the one that took root. When our resources ran out, they stepped up,” Police Chief Michael Wynn said. “We always support events like this.”
Events such as Pride Night help the neighbors feel safe in the area, Wynn said. Morningside also has an active neighborhood watch program, which organizers promoted at the event.
The event along with classes and performances is reaping benefits for the school, too, according to Principal Joseph Curtis.
“Anytime I can bring the community into my school, it’s a good thing,” Curtis said. “They’re seeing it not just as an educational facility but a community center too.”
The event has not only made an impact on the neighbors but has caught the eye of elected officials. Mayor Daniel Bianchi, city councilors and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, all stopped by the Thursday event.
“We just keep building community. We get a few more people every year,” White said.