Grantfest brings support

Colton Geoffert / Washburn Review

September 1, 2012 at the Brown v. Board Of Education site and the adjoining Cushinberry Park, there was a festival known as the Heart of America Black Expo Grant Fest.

Both the park and the festival were named after Topeka missionary Grant Cushinberry, who founded a distribution center called “God’s Little Half Acre” which made food, clothing and other necessities for daily living available to the needy.

Saturday’s events and attractions at the festival included a miniature swinging ship,  octopus amusement park rides, two bouncy castles and a tram ride that circled the park. As all the standard park equipment was in use. A game or two was even played on the basketball court.

Representatives from The Villages Inc., a non-profit corporation that provides family style group homes to children ages six to 18 and up, were there hosting team building activities. The “centipede” activity had participants attach to one another and walk through a horizontal net, tyring not to hit any of the strings, which had bells tied to them. If the bell rang, the team had to go back to the start and try again. The underlying metaphor was explained by The Villages Inc’s head of Adventure Challenge Courses and Team Building Programs, Trent Martin.

“We’re all connected in some way in our community,” said Trent Martin.  “Everything we do will effect us, whether we realize it or not, whether it be positive or negative.”

Topeka firefighters and highway patrolmen were also at the event to show off a firetruck and patrol car, respectively.

The Topeka Zoo had a couple of employees at the event to show and discuss a selection of animals that they had brought with them. Among these animals was a tarantula and a bearded lizard.

Parked in front of the school itself was one of the Topeka Library’s bookmobiles. A classic car show started at noon, though a few modern cars were allowed in the show as well. At six in the evening there was a gospel concert and at eight was the debut of “Barbara Johns: The Making of an Icon,” a documentary by Fabrice Chiambretto. When asked for more information about Barbara Johns, David Smith, the park superintendent of the Brown v. Board site, said that she was a fifteen year old girl who attended the segregated Morton High School in Farmville, Virginia before she “led a student strike in the 1950’s that was part of the bigger Brown case, that ended segregation.”

Sunday brought fewer, but different, events. They included a community social and a Midwest talent show. At eight in the evening, there was a block party with music provided by the Zapp Band, a soul and funk band formed in the seventies. Monday morning brought a five kilometer walk that started at the Brown v. Board site. Self guided tours of the Brown v. Board museum were available all weekend.