Sunday, December 2nd marked the first exhibition of Hug The Block, a unity circle filled with Newark poets, singers, musicians, dancers, and painters all sharing love with each other. The unity circle began at the Boys & Girls Club on Avon Ave and circled around to Irvine Turner Blvd., Muhammad Ali Avenue and to Somerset Street. Hug the Block is the brainchild of Margie “Mia X” Johnson who has lived and worked in this neighborhood for over 20 years. Margie is an art coordinator at the Boys & Girls Club and therefore has made both art and the Club a part of the circle. Margie says, “Being an artist and community member I felt it was my duty to plant seeds of love, hope and creativity and also engage and connect with my neighbors…especially the children.”
According to Margie, people in the neighborhood speak about the negative happenings like who was shot or robbed, yet don’t know about open mic, artistic events and the many galleries of Newark – happening right here in our backyard. So Margie took it into her own hands and is bringing the gallery/show to the block. The event was not only about the largest unity circle, but the visual art, poetry, music, dancers and more. Everyone involved volunteered time, effort, and resources to make the vision become a reality and it was evident. There were so many smiling faces, willing hands, and open arms hugging the block.
The day began with people, young and old, dressing the block with paper-crafted flowers along gates, banners, books along the sidewalk and art modules donated by The Barat Foundation all around the block. Once the block was dressed, a hip-hop, poetry, singing cypher began on the corner of Muhammad Ali Ave & Irvine Turner Blvd. As the day progressed the crowd circled the block following performances that lined the sidewalks and corners.
What was most impressive (at least to me) was seeing so many people out for the sole purpose of spreading love among each other and the community. It wasn’t a reaction to the crime rate, or a rally against political policy, or a spotlight showcase. It was simply a day for love. A day for smiles, laughter, men, women, children, music, poetry, art, dancing, and not to be forgotten……hugs. #HugTheBlock