Residents and police gathered around the Arrington Lagoon Tuesday afternoon and evening to participate in family-friendly activities and forge better police-community relations.
The City of Evanston hosted the festivities, which included a raffle, free food and an outdoor showing of the movie Superman.
The event was part of National Night Out, a 38-year-old program of block parties meant to allow law enforcement and community members to mingle and build a rapport.
Jessica Bristow brought her granddaughter and a neighbor to the lakefront get-together to enjoy the free entertainment.
She said that this year’s NNO was an opportunity for residents and law enforcement to reestablish good relations amid high-profile incidences of police brutality.
The event, she added, will “hopefully mend [and] heal wounds and bring the community closer together, although I think we’re pretty close.”
Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, who volunteers as a police chaplain, emphasized the role of police in ensuring public safety.
“We all come together and celebrate safety, that we have a safe city and a safe community, and we could come in solidarity in order to express ourselves in that type of a way,” Klein said.
Evanston Police Officer Enjoli Daley also recognized safety as central to NNO’s importance.
“I’m excited about the obstacle course to see the kids have fun, and then we have our movie tonight, so we’re pretty excited about that. But all in all, we just want people to have a safe night, have fun together.”
James Hopkins said he appreciated the chance NNO gave him and his family to spend time together while acknowledging the strained relationship between the African American community and law enforcement.
“It’s a good event.” He added, “I’m Black in America. I will always love to see change, but it is what it is at this time; we’ll see. I’m born and raised in Evanston. I’m from here. I’ve had bad experiences. I’ve had good experiences.”
And event volunteer Israel Jackson expressed his optimism toward what could come from this collaboration between police and community members.
Jackson said, “I think it’s a great move that the police should choose to work with the community, to organize events for people to participate in, so everyone can get involved and know each other better, have better relationships in the community so we can all be well-bounded together.”