‘No drama’ block party draws 1,500 to Wendover Street

Elizabeth Murray, Special to The Reporter
Jul. 12, 2012

#ProjectV from FlavioDphotovideo on Vimeo.

Above, organizers produced this video with highlights from last Saturday's #ProjectV party on Wendover Street.

Life-long Wendover Street resident Valdir Rosario, 27, said he had grown weary of his street’s bad reputation, earned after a number of violent incidents, including murders of young neighbors. Last Saturday, Rosario — enlisting the help of friends and family— took a giant step towards proving that Wendover Street can attract young people — peacefully— for a summertime block party for the ages.

Officially dubbed #ProjectV (with the V standing for Rosario’s first name), the block party went off without a hitch with an estimated 1,500 people gathering to socialize in a “no drama” zone, as Rosario called it.

Rosario and a team of about 20 fellow friends and family members— mostly of Cape Verdean descent— organized and funded the entire event.

“I can’t take all the credit for this party because it didn’t happen just with me,” Rosario said. “It’s a whole team that was doing this, like working together and showing that we can all have fun together and nothing bad [has to] happen. We showed that to the city too.”

The planning process took about two months, according to Rosario. During that time, the group applied to the city of Boston for a special event permit, gathered equipment, designed the layout of the block party on the street and promoted the event. The entire event was financed by members of the organization committee.

“It’s a tough economy, so not everybody could [help finance] it, but it was probably like 10 of us [who did],” Rosario said. “It ran us about $4,000 maybe and it came out of our pockets just to have everyone be there and have fun. Just to see a smile one everyone’s face.”

Rosario and his team used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and word of mouth to invite Dorchester residents to the block party. His sister, Veronica Rosario, and other committee members were instrumental in getting the word out to so many people. A senior team made up of Rosario, Celso Rebeiro, Sidney Baptista and Antonio Spinola headed the operations. Once it was decided that the dead end area of the street was perfect for the block party, Spinola began to draw up designs for the event.

“We’re all experts in separate fields that all came together,” Rosario said. “I work at a hotel, so for the party, getting the equipment together was something I was in charge of because I was the expert in that area. We did it for the community and we’re getting so much love now.”

For those who attended, food and drinks were free and entertainment was provided by neighborhood members who could rap, sing or DJ. For the most part, attendees were in their 20s and 30s, but Rosario said there were a few people in their 40s who came as well.

Rosario notified the police about the event so the proper police detail was organized to further ensure safety of attendees. Since alcohol was served, everyone was asked to show an ID before entering the party and bracelets were given out to identify those over 21.

“If you didn’t have a bracelet or proper ID, you were not served a drink,” Rosario said.

T-shirts and pins bearing a #ProjectV design were sold at the party and port-a-potties were rented for the occasion. People were able to play beer pong, take their chances in a dunk tank or just hang out and listen to the live entertainment. Rosario said many donated money so the party could keep going until its ending time at 9 p.m.

By the next morning, #ProjectV was one of the top 10 trending phrases on both Twitter and Instagram, and a video that had been made by Rosario’s cousin Flavio DeBarros already had gathered 800 hits by the time Rosario woke up.

“The people love it,” Rosario said. “The city and police try to promote non-violence by having these press conferences and these parties, where they’re all dull and nobody really comes. This is a totally different way to try to do it, and. . . so far, it’s working.”

Rosario said he’s gotten positive feedback from not only attendees, but from people in other places like Charlestown and Brighton asking him to recreate this kind of event in their neighborhoods. He said he’s also received calls from local police commending him on the success of the block party.
“They’re not used to that,” Rosario said. “They respect us.”

After such a successful gathering, Rosario wants to organize another #ProjectV event in the future, although the time and location has yet to be determined. He predicts that double the number of people will come to the next block party since Rosario said many did not attend this time for fear of the reputed tough neighborhood. Rosario said the committee might also consider fundraising for the next event.

For Rosario, though, the message is out and the main goal of the block party was accomplished.
“The community came together,” he said. “That’s all that matters. Everybody was there having a good time, everybody talking to each other, everybody having fun.”