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  • Writer's pictureMarKei Photo & Video

Columbia Heights: National Night Out

Every year, Columbia Heights organizes a community-building event called National Night Out that promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. I love attending community events and capturing the essence of Columbia Heights residents. What's a person to do when the events take place at 30 different locations at time? Well,... try to attend as many as possible! I think I managed to fit in about 6 and they were all south of 43rd Ave. I thought I'd sneak in, introduce myself, take a few pictures and wander off. But I started talking, as I'm prone to do, and felt so grateful for our community and for humanity. Join me on my tour of ... us.

The big smile above is of Antonia Alvarez, co-founder of "Pueblos de Lucha y Esperanza". This little bebe belonged to someone else (whose name I totally forgot!).

Just chatting!

Adam introducing Dib to Jeanette. Answers: She's a teacup poodle, she's 10 years old, and yes, you can pet her.

This was the last gathering that I attended. Connected with so many wonderful people. Stay tuned for a future story about the 3 generations who live here in MN! Daughter Jane, mother Carmen, and grandma who immigrated from Germany. All live right here in Columbia Heights! And boy, they've got a story to tell!!

I expect this wiener dog to call me soon with a photo opportunity. I was schmoozing him all evening.

Dib, my faithful companion.

Got lucky and landed at the gathering hosted by an employee of Indeed!!!

Even got to drink a freshly canned Oktoberfest beer! It was nom.

These ladies. LOVED these ladies. Not everyone knows this, but I am bilingual in Spanish. And so when I come across folx I think *might* speak Spanish, I run some fast algorithms to figure out whether they'd appreciate it or not if I presented the option to shift to Spanish for conversation. I'm glad I did yesterday. Got to chat a LOT with Maria (on the right) who is from Morelos, Mexico, but has lived in MN for more than 2 decades. Those two on the left are her daughters who were incredibly gracious as they shared some of their favorite foods with the neighborhood.

Another FANTASTIC connection last night: Jack! Jack waited patiently while I chatted with Maria. Once we got talking, he told me he had seen my work on the FB community page and LOVED it. He also wanted to get into photography. He was so encouraging to me, too! Told me that he had even gone and given my page a like. I was like, "yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuussssss!" He was party-hopping just like me, but in a MUCH cooler ride.

This kiddo on the right. I got a very strong impression of her within minutes of meeting her. Incredibly gracious, an amazing hostess, patient, and sincere.

The police stopped at a bunch of parties as well, educating on safety, providing neighborhood updates, and answering community questions.

My faithful companions.

Community doggos.

Sean Broom chatting with Chief Austin.

Community engagement/education by the PD.

Met this guy and his creative partner (image below) at the first party we went to. Apparently, she painted that Big Foot. I need these people as my friends.

Got lucky and ran into Amada at my very first stop. She was party-hopping like me. Also got to talk to this person on the left (for the life of me, I can't remember their name). But turns out they're an artist and they do woodturning, just like Keith!

There was SO MUCH food. And every party we stopped at was so gracious, even though we weren't "technically" from their specific neighborhood. It was like trick-or-treating!

Dib, you were entirely a distraction & a frustration yesterday. But you disarmed people and made them think I'm a nice person because I had a tiny dog on a leash. For that, I thank you.

My final thoughts? I stopped at 6 random Columbia Heights National Night Out parties completely uninvited. I arrived with a giant camera in my hand - kind of intimidating. Yet at every location, someone immediately greeted me, introduced me to everyone, gave me food, gave me beer, pet my dog, asked me about my business. Every location. That is Columbia Heights, y'all. And personally? Personally, I had internalized a narrative that the world is not a safe place to be in and that people are generally awful. However, the more I get in touch with myself, the more I can connect with others, and the more I can see... the opposite is true. I felt such abundance yesterday, realizing the lovingkindness we have right here among our neighbors.

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