Every four years, the Olympic Games infuse people with the spirit of unity as different cultures, customs and traditions are thrust to the forefront of their purview.
This year, an Oak Forest couple took it upon themselves to bring the spirit shown on television back to their home community in efforts to create a closer bond among the diverse neighborhood.
Last Saturday, Jacob Carr and his wife, Meredith, helped celebrate the opening of the Tokyo Olympics with an Olympic-themed block party along with their neighbors in the 1500 block of Cheshire Lane.
“Everybody can come together (with an event like this) and celebrate. Every country can be represented,” Jacob said. “We have a lot of people from all around the world just on our street.”
The idea, Jacob said, was for different neighbors to come dressed in the colors or clothing representing the country they chose along with food, a drink or game that was representative of the country as a whole. In all, at least a dozen countries – such as a China, France, Greece, Scotland and Sweden – were represented.
Neighbor Wade Clerkin and his family chose to portray Ireland as Clerkin said his family lineage traces back to the country, complete with bottles of Irish whiskey and a mini golf game representing one of the country’s more popular sports.
“We’ve got a really close group of friends here, so it’s just a good time to let the kids play and appreciate the normalcy,” Clerkin said.
According to U.S. Census Data from 2019, the Houston metropolitan area’s population is 38 percent Hispanic, 35 percent White, 16.8 percent African American and 7.8 percent Asian. About 2.3 percent is classified as “Other.”
Just along Chesire Lane, Jacob Carr said he and his wife have neighbors and friends whose family heritage traces back to Singapore, India, China and Scotland, among others, while they chose to represent Australia at last Saturday’s block party. Included in their display was an inflatable kangaroo – that national animal of Australia – and makeshift croquet setup, a game typically played on a lawn in which colored wooden balls are driven through a series of wickets using mallets.
“Our street is so diverse, just like Houston, so it’s great to come together and celebrate that diversity,” Carr said. “America is great, but you need to see other people’s traditions.”
The couple has no personal ties to Australia, but Carr said that was not really the point. Ultimately, the event was in the spirit of creating unity among the neighbors. They had previously helped put together a similar event while living in Shepherd Park Plaza in 2008.
“We’re friends with these neighbors now, so we decided to pick it back up this time around,” he said.
Clerkin echoed the sentiment.
“Honestly, I don’t know that this is about education so much as just hanging out and having fun. The Irish are all kind of close-knit groups who bond together and generally look after each other,” he said. “It’s been a tough year with COVID and everything, so it’s nice to just get to spend some time with the neighbors.”
As dozens of their neighbors and friends from around the community made their away around the block to check out various displays and games – such as one where young children could use foam bullets to shoot out targets and score points – Carr said events like last Saturday’s block party are important for the fabric of any area.
Ultimately, it wasn’t about pushing facts or literature about a certain culture, Carr explained. It was about creating camaraderie in the neighborhood to help spur appreciation for the area’s diversity in the spirit of the Olympics.
“There’s lots of ethnicity here, so it’s fun to represent your country or the country you choose,” Carr said. “It’s just fun to get together and see your neighbors.”