Early Saturday morning, hundreds of eager children entered Restoration Plaza for the annual Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Holiday Party. Named after one of Restoration’s founders and early champions, the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the event has become a much-anticipated event in the community.
If you passed by Restoration Plaza, you would have surely noticed the jubilant crowds and sea of children and their families gathered in lines. However, you’d really have to walk around both inside and outside the Plaza to truly appreciate the scale and diversity of activities taking place, as well as the hordes of volunteers who did an outstanding job and made the day possible.
As in past years, almost every part of Restoration Plaza was hopping!
In the basement, The Brownstoners of Bedford Stuyvesant came out once again in full force with a room of activities. Kids lined up to get their faces painted, while others played in a makeshift sandbox. Parents and children signed up for library books with the Brooklyn Public Library while Zeta Phi Beta conducted an educational workshop on Kwaanza.
In the Skylight Gallery, against the backdrop of prolific black writers, was our featured, current exhibit, “Her Word as Witness.” Here in the gallery, children participated in a youth portrait workshop led by Clarisa James, founder and director of Divas for Social Justice. Children took turns taking pictures of each other.
In the Billie Holiday Theatre, children and parents alike were delighted by performances by our Youth Arts Academy students as well as our on-site partners, the Noel Pointer Foundation School of Music and our newest resident, the Grammy Award Winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
The latter joined Restoration just this fall and is serving its inaugural class of 20 young singers between the ages of 7 and 9 years old. The show also feature a special guest appearance by Santa Claus, a sing-a-long, an exotic animal presentation and a poem written by a 7-year-old who performed it as an opera with piano accompaniment.
In keeping with RFK’s theme of child literacy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son to the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Restoration President Colvin Grannum addressed families on the importance of encouraging early literacy.
Other special guests included the executive director of the New York Imagination Library, Sharon Rencher, who spoke to parents about the importance of reading daily to children and encouraged audience members to subscribe for free monthly books available through the NYC Imagination Library. Also on-hand was District Leader Robert Cornegy, Jr., who graciously provided the sound system for the performances.
From exotic animal displays, to a petting zoo; from arts and crafts, to cultural performances, the event was a huge success. Perhaps the most amazing thing about “The RFK,” as it is popularly called, is that Restoration organizes the event exclusively through the kindness of volunteers and donors who provide free books for the children, perform, conduct activities, direct traffic and greet families throughout Restoration Plaza.
As in past years, Foodtown donated lunches for participants. Westchester’s Pelham Lacrosse Team organized a book drive in honor of the event and even sent a dozen volunteers who assembled some 500 bags of books and distributed them with the help off the Brooklyn Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to children in attendance. Other volunteers included Boys and Girls High School students, Hostos Community College, Bedford Stuyvesant Lions Club and the Mid Bedford Lions Club.
With this year’s festivities behind us, we will be preparing for next year’s RFK before we know it. Please be sure mark your calendar for Saturday, December 8, 2012. We hope you’ll join us!