By Danielle Richardson
Staff Writer & Reporter
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – The New Kensington Better Block, which is under new leadership, will be on Saturday, April 30 from 12 to 8:00 pm. Autumn Walker is the new coordinator of the Better Block event this year, along with Andre Carter.
Walker, who moved to New Kensington nearly five years ago, is a strong advocate for the city’s revitalization. She expressed her concerns over the stigma that New Kensington faces.
“New Ken has so much potential, but it is fighting against a few problems before it can be great again,” Walker said. “One thing that it needs is to shake the stigma that it got from how it was 10 years ago. It is not a scary place, but people seem to think it is. I have lived here for 5 years without incident.” She hopes to eliminate this through initiatives like the Better Block.
Walker also runs her own business in downtown New Kensington and participated as a vendor in last year’s Better Block. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of small cities,” Walker said. “They can offer employment opportunities for the locals, for whom travelling into a larger city is not possible, as well as events for the locals to participate in.”
Andre Carter, the owner of Jams Avenue Music, is co-coordinating the event with Walker this year. “He and I are to be heading up this event due to in large part both of us loving this city and always popping up with new ideas and support for new ideas around town,” Walker said. “I think we will be leaning on a lot of the previous leaders from the past two Better Block events to help guide the process.”
Last year, Jessica Levine was the coordinator of the Better Block event. Levine is the manager of the Habitat for Humanity building in New Kensington.
“One of the neat things about the way the Better Block events have worked is that each one is headed up by another group of folks, so each one has a very distinctive vibe, and is constantly in flux and improving in one way or another,” Walker said.
She expressed her confidence in Carter’s experience with the local talent which will be his focus for the Better Block event. “He will be focusing just on the music and entertainment portion of the event, so I expect we will have an amazing collection of entertainment,” Walker said.
Walker was an outside vendor for the first Better Block in May 2014 and a shop owner for the October Better Block. With her experience, Walker hopes to improve the process for the upcoming event.
“I have come up with a survey for anyone who participated in the previous Better Block events to see what they would like to see as visitors, shop keepers, and vendors,” explained Walker. “There has been a number of ideas batted around for how to improve upon the other two events.”
In addition to surveys, Walker has also developed a website for the event with the help of a local shop owner. The website includes updates about the event, discussion forums, and staff and volunteer application forms.
“I hope to be able to create a spectacular event and have a lot of resources to pass forward to the next lead on the project for next October’s event,” Walker said.