An All-American Day In a Special Place

This Fourth of July I will be spending time having a barbecue like many Americans. I will swim and watch little kids run around waving flags. I will have red, white and blue cupcakes too. This time it's a very special Fourth. I will be in Mississippi at the Marsha Barbour Community Center and the Starfish YMCA pool.

This is a center that began out of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The community was leveled. When I volunteered there two weeks after the storm people were cooking their meals on a grill at the Mt.Zion Methodist Church. Rev Rosemary Williams saw to it that everyone got a hot meal once a day. Some children had developed signs of post traumatic stress and the lucky ones were living in FEMA trailers. An autistic boy was living in a car with his grandmother.

My partner, Cholene Espinoza was so moved by what she saw post Katrina that she wrote a book, "Through The Eye Of the Storm." She bought a piece of land and raised money to build this center and swimming pool. Swimming is important in the Gulf. If more people knew how to swim they might not have died after the storm. The pool also represents a change in America. A pool in the area was filled in during the 1960's rather than have black and white children swimming together. Now, no one blinks and eye. It seems that these children have been
swimming together for hundreds of years.

The center boosts an NBA basketball court and a KaBoom playground. It will have a computer lab and large kitchen when completed by the 4th anniversary of the storm on August 29th. This is not just a center from the wreckage of Katrina it is a center that mirrors the hopes and dreams of America. This is an America that can still come together and celebrate our Independence and our knitting together of diverse communities. I am proud to spend my Fourth of July at the Marsha Barbour Center. I can't imagine celebrating any place else!