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Douglas Park Neighbors Have Mixed Emotions On Riot Fest After Year Two

By Evan F. Moore | September 19, 2016 8:43am
 Some of the people who work and live nearby Douglas Park describe Riot Fest's presence as
Some of the people who work and live nearby Douglas Park describe Riot Fest's presence as "awkward."
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DNAinfo/Evan F. Moore

NORTH LAWNDALE — As Riot Fest wrapped up its second year in Douglas Park on Sunday after years at Humboldt Park, many residents still have mixed feelings on what the popular music festival brings to the their neighborhood. 

Dominique Morris teaches fifth grade at Johnson Elementary, which is across the street from Douglas Park. She said many parents had no idea Riot Fest would be in the neighborhood.

"I think it's a good thing that this is in the neighborhood because there's so much space and opportunity, but from what I've heard by people in the neighborhood don't know what's going on," Morris said. "That concerns me. The parents were asking 'What's going on? There's nowhere for me to park.'"

Demetrius Redmond, who lives two blocks away from Douglas Park, sold bottles of water outside Riot Fest over the weekend.

"When [concert goers] walk through here, they turned their noses up at us. This is happening in an African-American community. This isn't benefiting us," Redmond said. "They say this area is bad but they are having this over here, so it must not be too bad."

Some of the North Lawndale residents who live near Riot Fest sold parking spaces. [DNAinfo/Evan F. Moore].

While some North Lawndale residents may fear the worst regarding Riot Fest, musicians who live in the neighborhood have used the festival as a motivational tool.

"I plan to be on that stage one day. I think it is awesome that Riot Fest is here because it bring diversity to the neighborhood," said Tay M, a hip-hop artist who attended the festival last year. "If Riot Fest can be here, other festivals can come to the neighborhood. I don't think people in the neighborhood can relate to Riot Fest, but they are open to it."

Riot Fest gave out tickets to North Lawndale residents who live near the park. 

Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) believes Riot Fest went above and beyond to include the North Lawndale community despite some early growing pains.

"My office can do more outreach. Riot Fest can do more outreach. This year they made an effort to correct some of the mistakes that took place in Humboldt Park," Scott said. "A lot of residents have asked for tickets. Riot Fest has done more than they should have."

Other residents want to remind festival goers that there's more to North Lawndale than Riot Fest.

"It's nice that they are over here, but their has been some programs in existence for quite sometime," said Bruce Jackson, a grant writer with Gift House, a non-profit organization that provides free sexually-transmitted disease and AIDS testing to local residents. "We have an influx of people who are affected by STDs, AIDS and diabetes. It's great that we talk about music, but you need your help to enjoy the music."

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