Did you miss National Night Out this past Tuesday? Rooted in efforts to decrease crime by building neighborhood camaraderie, 625 Oakland neighborhoods registered with the city to participate in block parties. While this event is scheduled for the first Tuesday of every August, the opportunity to connect with local residents doesn’t only have to happen once a year. Planning your own block party is easy, and the relationships that are formed or strengthened by them make living in your neighborhood all the more wonderful.

No matter the size of the block party you’re intending, advertisement and publicity for the event is key. The more traditional door-to-door invitation is a good chance to introduce yourself if you don’t already know your neighbor, but it can be difficult to motivate a substantial attendance if there isn’t already strong neighborhood ties. Reminder emails or public flyers work well as a follow-up.

Wider-scope gatherings like the Uptown Block Party utilized social media and local businesses to help draw a bigger crowd.

“…We wanted to open our National Night Out event to the broader community – not just Uptown residents, but local businesses, friends and family, and folks who appreciate our neighborhood,” said Diny Huang, a resident of Uptown Place who helped spearhead the block party, which attracted hundreds of people from around the Bay Area.

Out of the dozen businesses Huang originally contacted, she figured half would turn down an offer to participate in NNO. However on Tuesday evening, over thirty bars and restaurants offered discounts and extended happy hours to those mentioning National Night Out as their reason for being there.

On the smaller scale, activities for kids cultivate the family-friendly vibe of informal neighborhood get-togethers. Delegate tasks or items for all the neighbors to contribute. Among a free book drive and a barbeque, bottle rockets and face painting were both hits at the 31st and West Street intersection in West Oakland. Another block party a few streets over had a game of football going on, and another was hosting an ice cream social.

Ian Pereida-Perry, a resident of West Oakland was making his way through the various block parties. “It’s a good chance to learn the history of different neighborhoods,” he said, after meeting people from different sections of his neighborhood.

Involving city officials in the planning process of a block party is a good way to help cover your bases in terms of logistical supplies. For this past NNO, the city provided caution tape to section off streets, balloons to help advertise for the event, and suggestions for ice-breakers. City staff also made rounds to check in with organizers of the block parties and see for themselves the kind of community that NNO fosters.

Whatever the size or feel you’re going for, reaching out of your immediate neighborhood for support in your block party is well-received in Oakland. The symbiotic relationship that forms between patrons and small business, and the acquaintance between citizens and City Council is what helps Oakland thrive as a city dedicated to localism.

For a complete guide to throwing a successful block party, visit Oakland’s NNO party guide.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at simonelarson@oaklandlocal.com

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