"Joining Forces"

Date published: 06/30/2011
Publication: Troy Record

By Stephen Douglas

There’s a new outdoor performance space in Troy between Fifth and Sixth avenues on 101st Street. Freedom Square is a collaborative effort started by The Sanctuary for Independent Media, Missing Link Street Ministry, Troy Bike Rescue and Collard City Growers. This Saturday, Freedom Square debuts with a music festival headlined by the Debo Band.

“We wanted to have a celebration of the new lot and thought what better way than to have some music,” said Steve Pierce from The Sanctuary for Independent Media.

Pierce says that the lot was originally purchased to provide extra parking, but other uses were always a possibility.

“It’s been used for years for different events and we wanted to continue to do that and try to maintain it. So we’re working with some of our neighbors to improve the neighborhood,” he said.

The neighbors include Missing Link Street Ministry which is located right across the street from the Sanctuary.

“We’ve been working with Missing Link the whole time we’ve been here co-sponsoring events, media training and all kinds of stuff with kids. It was a very natural fit,” said Pierce. Missing Link will be in charge of the accompanying barbecue.

“I’m truly excited about coming together of these separate entities,” added Pastor Willie D. Bacote of the Missing Link Street Ministry. “We’ve have a chance to grow and collaborate together for an overhaul of the mindset of this community. Where people can come and enjoy and mingle and get to know each other.”

“Troy Bike Rescue has been doing clinics where they help people fix bikes and  help people tune them up. They put together a very popular event a few years ago that brought a lot of kids out,” said Pierce.

The Sanctuary had worked with Troy Bike Rescue before they moved into the neighborhood. “A new addition to the group is the Collar City Growers. So it makes a huge amount of sense to focus on food and bicycles and spirituality in the neighborhood. That’s what brings us all together.”

The fact that the inaugural Freedom Square show falls on a major holiday weekend is a happy coincidence with the scheduling of the headliner, the Debo Band.

“They’re a great band from Boston that we’ve been in touch with for months trying to figure out when they could play here. They’re touring in the summer and we don’t usually do things inside in the summer. It turned out they’d be coming through town on their way home from the Montreal Jazz Festival. So we have a fantastic 10-piece big band playing on the lot for our first show,” said Pierce.

After the main act was scheduled the organizers decided it was only natural to make a day of it. “We realized that we would have a sound system so why not have some local groups play too?” said Pierce. “Missing Link has a great men’s gospel choir. There’s a group called S.K.A.T.E. that’s worked with the Sanctuary. They’re a very positive hip-hop group. Then one of the students in our intermediate program told one of his teachers and he said his band Sumac would like to play and they are a great local rock group.”

While the lineup seemed to just fall into place, it was a conscious effort to have an assorted variety of musicians. “We tried to have something for everyone,” said Pierce. “We tried to cover every spectrum of music and do things that no one else was doing. I don’t think any of these bands are playing any of the other live festivals in the area. It’s a diverse sound for a diverse neighborhood. We live and work in a very diverse neighborhood. We tried to have a lineup that would reflect that.”

“We just want to invite everybody out to have a good time eat some barbecue,” said Pastor Willie. “Just mingle and have a good fellowship in common. It’s a very positive thing for Freedom Square. It’s just something that the city of Troy has needed for a long time.”

The Freedom Square group is excited for their first event and hopeful that more will follow. “If the neighborhood responds to it and there’s a lot of positive feedback then we’ll do more of this,” said Pierce. “We’re going to keep doing film screenings, but for now we’re just trying to take it slow and see what develops. There are a number of things we could do, but we’re going to wait to see how it turns out.”

Freedom Square Between Fifth and Sixth avenues on 101st Street in Troy. 272-2390. Free.

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