Robert and I attended Better Block OKC tonight. The goal of the project was to convert a city block into a temporary hub of activity. I think the organizers surpassed everyone’s expectations.
The event, which runs through tomorrow, has transformed NW 7th and Hudson Avenue. Highlights include public art, live music, makeshift cafe tables and chairs, a flower shop, art gallery and fresh fruit and vegetable stand. I cannot imagine the amount of work and coordination that went into this thing. It was so impressive.
Better Block OKC was inspired by a national movement that really began with a trip to Italy. Jason Roberts of Dallas, Texas, innovated the movement. After a visit to Europe 10 years ago, he returned home longing for the plazas where “old people could linger with their grandchildren.” He wanted to live in a community where markets were buzzing with energy and life, where people could ride “heavy bikes sitting upright.”
So, in April 2012, Roberts set out to change the neighborhood where he lived, the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas. Long considered the bad part of town, Roberts became a community organizer extraordinaire. He highlighted his journey to the Better Block movement in a recent talk at the University of Oklahoma. The video is about 20 minutes long, and it goes very fast because Roberts is entertaining and inspiring. At the end, he highlights three steps to success:
Show up. Hardly anybody does.
Name something and give it a logo. (He made up the “Oak Cliff Transit Authority” before it existed and even slapped up a website for it. Today, it’s the recipient of a $23 million federal grant!)
Set a date for an event/project and announce it. That way you’re obligated to do it. Roberts calls this blackmailing yourself.
Better Block projects are spreading all throughout middle America and beyond. Tulsa and Wichita have both gotten their feet wet in the movement. Better Block OKC runs through tomorrow.