East Palo Alto is expanding its annual celebration of National Night Out this year with a parade today from St. John's Church to Joel Davis Park -- as a symbol of hope and a positive future for young people.
Six traditional block parties in the city will complement the inaugural parade.
The parade will begin in the parking lot at St. John's Church at 1050 Bay Road with a kick-off event at 4:45 p.m., featuring East Palo Alto Mayor David Wood, Police Chief Ron Davis, various elected city officials and police chiefs from neighboring Menlo Park and Palo Alto.
The procession will depart from the church at 5 p.m. and make its way through the city before ending at Joel Davis Park at 1960 Tate St..
The route was designed so parade-goers could be dropped off at any of the ongoing block parties en route to the park.
The parade was suggested and organized by Monique Graves, president of Lauren's House 4 Positive Change, an organization that aims to help low-income and homeless youths in East Palo Alto gain access to education and creative-arts opportunities.
Graves started the organization in January 2009 with her then-partner, Jerry Bottley.
Bottley was murdered in East Palo Alto just two months later -- giving Graves even more motivation to make an impact against violence in her community.
In addition to Bottley's murder, the June homicide of East Palo Alto community leader David Lewis at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo deeply affected Graves and motivated her to get involved with National Night Out, an annual celebration that highlights community safety.
"I have been diligently working to offer something to the youth in East Palo Alto so they don't feel like this is the end of the world -- that we're only about the negative and not the positive," Graves said.
"We are about the positive, and that's what National Night Out means to me. I want to celebrate the lives that have been taken from me by the violence and let the community know we don't have to stand for violence."
Lauren's House 4 Positive Change will have booths at the block party in Joel Davis Park. The other block parties are located on:
■ Lilac Lane between Dumbarton and Palo Verde avenues.
■ Oakwood Drive between Palo Verde Avenue and Garden Street.
■ Runnymede Street at Avelar Street.
■ Euclid Avenue between O'Connor Street and Woodland Avenue.
■ Newell Road between Woodland Avenue and West Bayshore Road.