a charlotte street 15 year anniversary project considering the history and future of artist-driven pioneering in Kansas City and the changing nature of the city's "frontiers"

We Can Be Dreamers

This is the text that Jamie Burkart prepared for his contribution to The Frontier’s Beating the Bounds:

Flashmob Reenactments: We can be dreamers.

Missouri has the number one murder rate for African Americans.  For the last couple of summers young people have walked to the Plaza in search of a new safe frontier, a place to enjoy bright lights, to meet new people and to share self-expression. Tech-savvy teens, perhaps impressed by the commons of the web – Youtube, Facebook, Twitter – are taking the first step in creating a new citywide relationship that utilizes the public sidewalk in this most beautiful district as a gathering place for all.

Sadly, in the midst of this potential, there are boundaries to overcome: in the criminal actions of some individuals and in the fear of the unpredictability of change experienced by some hearts and businesses.

But we have the answer in our hands.  It is literally a handshake and a listening ear.  As a citizen with an artist’s brain, I met with people who are experienced in the New Plaza and held what I call reenactment sessions.  We unlocked the chains of past events from the Plaza’s memory, and freely imagined our more peaceful future.

“Expect the best.  Prepare for the best.”

During the public program in early May,  Councilman John Sharp and Doug Bonney, Legal Director for the ACLU in Kansas City, led discussions about the rights and responsibilities of free access to public space. To lay the groundwork for the conversation, Jamie shared this video.

Compiled from television footage and news reports about the April 2010 “Flash Mob Incident” on the Plaza, as well as interviews that Jamie conducted in the course of his research for the show, this short movie simply describes the complex negotiations between the needs of local businesses to provide a safe and controlled environment for trade, and the rights of citizens to peaceably congregate and occupy public space.

The discussion was extremely helpful in clarifying which behaviors are and are not legal on public streets, as well as in unraveling the confusing curfew regulations imposed on different age groups, at various locations and times of the week and year. We will be producing a pamphlet in the near future that will outline the information gathered here, and that we hope will contribute to enhanced usage of our urban commons.

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