Natalie Hopkinson is a Washington, D.C.-based author whose current projects deal with the arts, gender and public life. She is the author of Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City. Follow her on Twitter.
PHOTOS BY AARON ROBERTS
A detail from a painting of Marvin Gaye taken from inside the Riverside Center in Northeast Washington, D.C., where nearly 200 volunteers from around the country gathered in honor of the Martin Luther King's Holiday. Volunteers squeezed in the service project before the historical inauguration of Barack Obama the next day.
Snow sprinkled that morning, and many writers and editors from The Root were recovering from The Root's Inaugural Ball the night before. Still, nearly 200 volunteers from across the country came out to the Riverside Center, at 5200 Foote Street N.E., Washington, D.C. for the park clean-up.
Health activist and PhD student Autumn Saxton-Ross gives instructions to volunteers. The week before, the Huffington Post asked Autumn write an essay about how she came up with the idea for the service project.
Washington Parks & People founder Steve Coleman points to the map of a 1.6 miled African American heritage trail located in the park that is formerly known as Watts Branch. Also along the trail is the King sanctuary, a green house located where Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech in 1961 urging D.C. residents to take part in a sit-in downtown.
Close-up of the trail that volunteers hiked during the clean-up.
The Root Associate Editor Natalie Hopkinson welcomes volunteers from the stage where Marvin Gaye gave his first performance. Hopkinson and Coleman discussed the larger urban green movement in a live chat with Washingtonpost.com readers.
An old photo of Marvin Gaye's former home, located steps away from the park. The city razed the structure in 2004, along with the rest of the public housing project where Gaye lived as a teenager. The outcry over the demolition inspired the city to rename the adjoining park in the singer's honor in 2006.
The group had quite a job on our hands.
Latavia Savage, of Chicago, Ill. manned the sign-in table, where volunteers got The Root Day of Service T-shirts.
In 2004, the nonprofit group Washington Parks & People, bought the Riverside Center, the building formerly known as the Crystal Lounge where Marvin Gaye gave his first public performance. In addition to a Saturday farmer's market, the adjoining 1.6 mile nature trail hosts children's nature programs, gardening plots, and training for "green jobs."
This event was among the thousands listed on the Presidential Inauguration Committee Web site, which helped to draw volunteers from Santa Barbara, Calif., Springfield, Oh., Memphis, Tenn., and Newark, N.J.
A batch of local AKAs came out to support. Their local chapter also donated $200 for supplies.
Volunteers put on hip boots and waded in the stream to pick up trash.
This family from Washington, D.C. showed it's never too early to start giving back.
Volunteers fished out everything from a motorcycle, to tires to a mattress that was dumped in the park by motorists. Despite this rich history, Marvin Gaye Park is one of the most neglected green spaces in the city, far from the white marble monuments most Washington tourists see.
Several fallen branches had to be pulled from the stream.
Subway restaurant donated 200 sandwiches for volunteers of all ages. Krispy Kreme provided hot donuts, and Coca Cola Co. provided Fuse soft drinks for everyone who came out.
This group of volunteers are alumni of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in town for the inauguration festivities.
Raking up leaves directly across the street from the Riverside Center near the Marvin Gaye Amphitheatre.
Getting marching orders from the Riverside staff.
Dumping auto parts is never a good look, because someone has to clean up the mess.
From Left to Right: Autumn Saxton-Ross, Natalie Hopkinson, Steve Coleman, The Root Managing Editor Lynette Clemetson and The Root Publisher Donna Byrd celebrate the end of an exhilirating day. Thanks to everyone who came out on this historic weekend, and long live the spirit of Martin Luther King!