What Makes Ronnie Roll: Can Line Dancing Build Community?

8-5-2016 11-58-44 AMIf you were at Jimmy Gill Park on Saturday, July 30th, you would know that the answer is a resounding yes! That is, as long as there are other things going on behind the scenes for the purpose of bringing the community together in strength. The Mayor, Raven Warner, who is on the Mayor’s Youth Commission, and who is just finishing up her summer working at the new City Hall, and I sat in his office while it was raining “cats and bats” outside. We talked about the summer, everything from the windows getting broken at Trinity, to the Youth Commission donating money from the Dekko Foundation for window repair, to Youth Commission plans for next year, as well as celebrating the success of the NAACP Limestone Youth Council Community Unity/ Leadership Day event. Both Ronnie and Raven had participated, and their smiles as well as enthusiasm spoke volumes.

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“Four to five years ago we didn’t have anything like the Youth groups, let alone an all day event,” Ronnie said. “Training up leaders was something that was pretty much done in churches, which is good, and now we have several community organizations stepping up to do the job, too. We have ours, the Chamber of Commerce has one, and there are others.” He waxed philosophical for a moment. “We change America right here,” he said, as he pointed to the table where the three of us were sitting. “We go to church, talk a good game about being Christian, and we go back the next week and we keep talking about it, but it is in the community that it happens. The worst thing we can do is stop talking, and not do anything.”

Raven listened politely, and like most teens these days, multi-tasked by listening to him while looking for a video on her phone that captured what happened in Jimmy Gill Park. It is from that video that the still shot shown here as an illustration was taken. It showed police men in uniform, black folks, white folks, and kids all line dancing together during the festivities. As my father used to say, “They were cutting a rug.” Raven said, “The whole community was together, something you don’t usually see.” She was elsewhere on the site and didn’t get a chance to participate, but felt that it was the best part of the day. There were other good things as well. Raven worked a booth where school supplies were being donated and dropped off. There was a booth where people could register to vote. There was a place where you could get your photo ID taken, and one of Raven’s favorite things that happened was that an elderly woman in a wheelchair got her ID card. Raven also made a new friend named Jordan, who had just moved here. Raven plays sax, and it looks like Jordan is going to join her this fall as part of the Athens High School Band.

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The police were there for the day, as were firemen and other first responders. There were presentations on health and nutrition, representatives from Athens and Limestone Schools were present, and more. They had to call it early due to the rain, but no one’s spirits were dampened. I had Raven imagine for a bit what she would do if she were Mayor and had every resource at her disposal. She talked about bringing in more things for kids to do so they didn’t have to go to Madison. “It would cost a lot of money, I know,” she said shyly. She added that she would like to see all community music related events for kids. She then headed back up to her post in the front office of City Hall.

Mayor Ronnie came back into his office, and finished up our time by saying, “We gotta keep doing things like this. It’s just too important.” As we always do, we prayed for our town, and then it was time for Ronnie, and me, to roll on out into the much needed downpour that was deluging the marvelous city of Athens, Alabama.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner