Transitional Youth Mobilizing for Change (TYM4Change) will be adopting Martin Luther King Jr. Park on June 29th.
Adoption of the park comes after a series of garbology studies being done in the park and seeing the trash in the kid’s area. Executive Director, Jovon Dangerfield explained that this helped push him to want to clean up the park.
Prior to the decision to adopt TYM4Change had already been starting an afterschool program at the park. So, adopting the park just seemed like the natural next step.
“Basically it’s really about showing our presence here in this community cause sometimes we have people talking about communities and they’re not really there or seen there and that’s not what I want,” said Dangerfield.
To Dangerfield being present means not only being there but shining a light on the area.
“We wanted to continue to draw attention to this area not just for the bad but for the good. There’s been a lot of good changes. Parks and rec’s doing a good job with a lot of things so we want to come in and be some of that bridge work between the community,” said Dangerfield.
One of the first steps to this bridge work has been the afterschool program that started a couple of weeks ago at the MLK center. On Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., youth are able to come to the center and during the program, Dangerfield stated that also push anti-tobacco use campaigning.
While urging for parents to community members to bring their children to the MLK center, Dangerfield is aware of some of the negative narratives around the park but states children are well supervised in the program.
“I have eight full-time staff in there right now with these kids. These are trained individuals, facilitation specialists, people who’ve been doing this for a long time and you got me who’s been in this work for like a decade,” said Dangerfield. “We can guarantee supervision here inside.”
He continued to say that it takes real work and they do have to learn to co-exist with those who congregate on the West end of the park. Dangerfield stated there are also small businesses that are starting on that side of the park.
“There’s a lot of good things happening. I think sometimes we let things get a bad rep whenever they don’t look new,” said Dangerfield. “ We are trying to do something to impact this community but we have to start from somewhere… We would like for people to bring their kids down with people that are qualified and able to do this job.”
MLK Park has been in Bakersfield for a long time which contributes to the many stories and narratives in the park. For a Dangerfield the park is seen as iconic and because of its proximity to Eastside Bakersfield and the constant events and gatherings so it only made sense that this was the park they’d focus on.
“This park just seems like a hub for Bakersfield. It’s Iconic. You can talk about a lot of parks and people still be like where’s that at again? But MLK everybody knows where MLK is,” said Dangerfield.
The development of MLK Park and the area around it means more than just a place for the youth to come it also means more job opportunities and importantly, it provides people with a choice according to Dangerfield.
“It would present us with another choice collectively. That choice would be you got something new, you want to take care of it?” said Dangerfield. “It’s a new park, don’t tear it up now… Let’s take care of it together. Let’s not be throwing stuff everywhere, let’s try to keep the shootouts away from here. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
He continued to say he’s hopeful that if the area starts to create more economic opportunities like the Jack in the Box that was just built there creating jobs and more produce stores then people will respond well.
Renovating that park to means change it coming and people are finally listening to those in the area that were asking for more care to be given to that park and its surroundings.
“I see the opportunity for jobs inside the rec center, I see an opportunity for jobs in the nearby developments, and I see an opportunity for higher scale events,” said Dangerfield. “I think aesthetic helps people feel better too if it looks better.”