Arts & Culture

The Mystery of Railroad Square

Written by: Camden Henry

November 16, 2017

Railroad Square Art Park used to be an industrial park in the 1960s but was re-constructed during the mid-1970s to provide an area for artists to expose their art via studios and galleries. Though it has been around for 30+ years, the question is: Why isn’t Railroad Square Art Park a bigger commodity?

For a city filled with college students and tourists looking for a relaxing but interesting time in Florida’s capital, you would think that there would be a wide eye for young, artistic environments like Railroad Square. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Lillian Finn, the property manager of the art park, also wonders why there isn’t much of a variety of students visiting the park. “A lot of students from FSU knows about us but not FAMU, and it bothers me,” Finn said when asked about the diversity.

Finn has been the property manager at Railroad Square for three years but has been working there for 10 years. She recalled a time where a canal, as well as a gate, separated both the park and FAMU’s campus, thus making it harder for anyone on FAMU’s campus to even see the park at all. It wasn’t until the year 2000 when a program called Blueprint 2000 encouraged a change in the city’s transportation, taxes, and public safety.

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The program pushed for the removal of the gate and the drainage of the canal, therefore opening the doors for FAMU students to discover the park. But it still seems as though it doesn’t have much impact. Jessica Duncan, a tenant at the park, has her perspective on the matter as well.

“I think it’s a mix of people not being around long enough and a lot of people only knowing about First Friday,” Duncan said when asked what she think is the reason for the unawareness of the park.

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First Friday, created in the year 2000, is the park’s biggest festival that is held the first Friday of every month. During the festival, a multitude of tourists and students come to the festival to enjoy the events, shops, and items held at the park.

Betty, the store owner of Obsessionslocated at the park’s breezeway, even made her debut at First Friday this year after inquiring about vending space. Though she enjoys her permanent shop space in the breezeway, she has noticed the lack of knowledge for the park and even experienced it herself before obtaining her shop at the park.

When asked how she would go about building more notoriety for the park if she had the power, she responded, “I think capitalizing on the uniqueness of it and having something that would entertain people such as a band or food.”

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It’s evident that the park has potential to be bigger than what it is now. According to Finn, the goal is to make the park as big as the art district in Wynwood, a historical area in Miami, and they have had brainstorming conversations with the creators associated with the Wynwood.

But notoriety usually starts locally. And with time, it is believed that there will be an influx of students from both sides of the square that will be involved with what the park has to offer.

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Melanin for All Brethren

Written by: Camden Henry

October 7, 2017

The Melanin Festival is a festival created to pave a lane for youth brand expansion and knowledge. Set to be held annually during the fall, the festival follows a specific motto: “To unify cultures of all backgrounds by bringing together local businesses, art, and community figures for five days of community service and tons of fun…”

Henry “Apollo Robinson” DuHart, a Ft. Pierce native and former FAMU student, moved to Tallahassee about three years ago and was immediately inspired by the people and events dwelling in the area. After noticing the imbalance between parties and black empowerment, he had a dream that motivated him to create the Melanin Fest.

“We need to do something progressive. Proud to be black, yes. But less turn up,” DuHart said as he passionately spoke about what he’s noticed not only in Tallahassee but in Florida as a whole. Since it is a college town, it isn’t a coincidence that Tallahassee is filled with a variety of festivities, especially during the fall semester. But in what ways can a balance be administered?

T’Sehai “Troubelle” Dames, another host and associate of DuHart, believes that individuals should take the initiative to learn from this festival and apply it to everyday life. “People come with a problem but where is the solution?”, Dames questioned.

Based off the Dames’ question, it’s quite evident that the festival is held to be the answer to that question. The festival hosts a variety of different events to not only empower but encourage people to keep hone in on their natural abilities as a human being that goes far beyond music and other forms of artistry. These abilities are focused on agricultural knowledge, spiritual self-awareness, and upholding organic brotherhood.

Since the festival is fairly new, it isn’t a huge boom compared to other events and has been currently limited to social media and “word of mouth” promotion. To make matters worse, the recent impact of Hurricane Irma affected the original schedule of the festival. Ironically, the first annual Melanin Festival was affected by a storm, which led to its postponement as well. But despite the effects of the storm in early September, the Melanin Festival is still alive and well.

DuHart’s plan for the festival is to keep expanding as long as possible. Through plenty of persistence and time, the next festival will possibly make it to Jacksonville, Florida. “This is your future”, says Angelica “Anala Tefnut” Simmons, another attendant and host of the festival, who believes that the festival will not just be beneficial for the current life but the future life as well. All in all, the positivity placed into the festival seems to be working out for their group TUA, the Tallahassee Unsigned Artists.

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