RL Huggar, the chart-topping rhythm and blues singer/songwriter, paused during a soundcheck before performing at Family Day, the Minneapolis Urban League’s annual event on the city’s North Side.
Huggar grew up just two blocks away on Russell Avenue. Saturday, he was back in his hometown to perform at the 24th anniversary of the community tradition. He didn’t have any money growing up but Family Day has always been free so he went and found the kind of inspiration he hopes to spread these days among north side kids.
“I used to ride my bicycle here and watch people on stage, and dream it would be me,” he said. “This is the event that I can most relate to.”
From morning to dusk, Plymouth Avenue between Logan and Penn Avenues was blocked off and turned into an urban festival, marketplace, and resource fair for health, employment and housing tips. Family Day promotes family traditions and values, healthy and secure neighborhoods and economic development.
There were plenty of kids and teens, some with their parents, at the event that for many provided respite from the threats of gang violence and sporadic gunfire in their neighborhoods.
Charlie Morris, 15, who arrived early with several buddies, said the event gives out “a good message...”
“ — That everybody is welcome; that you don’t have to hide anymore,” interjected his friend, Darrius Berry, 15.
Berry added that the fest shows those who have been involved in gangs that others “want to let them know that we’re fighting for them, too.”
And that’s through prayer, added yet another buddy in the group.
Churches, along with health providers, civil-right representatives, Girl Scouts, housing programs and other organizations offering resources for families had set up more than 50 booths Saturday morning.
“The purpose of Family Day is really to bring the community together for some fun, some entertainment, and to provide resources, including a Health Fair,” said Erica Carver, the event coordinator.
She said the first Family Day began with 300 people, and now an estimated 3,000 people attend.
Minneapolis firefighter Andrew Larkins was on hand to teach fire prevention. Francisca Rivera was among those from the nearby Northpoint Health and Wellness Center who were giving free blood-pressure checks and handing out information promoting healthy eating and checkups, including for teeth.
“We want people to be proactive,” she said. “We’re all about prevention.”
Sylvia Hayes, 55, and Eureka Johnson, 32, of Shiloh Temple Church, where the young have been buried after gun violence and overdoses, were inviting people to one of their ongoing presentations that advises families on how to forgive addicts and rebuild broken relationships.
Isis Brown, 10, was at the fest with her family and heading to the Health Fair for free screenings but first passed by Huggar’s stage and the inflatable castle and slide, where kids could get free hot dogs and cotton candy.
“It looks pretty cool over here,” Isis said. “And it’s something fun for the family to do.”