Downtown initiative begins this Friday with Metro Spirit cover shoot open to the public by Amy Christian
Christy Beckham lives downtown with her husband and two children in a 19th century-era house they’re restoring, so she was pretty close to the action last First Friday when gunfire injured six people.
“We live on the corner of 9th and Greene and the shooting was on 9th and Broad,” she said. “I was right in the middle of packing toys for vacation.”
The event, which almost instantly renewed fears of downtown as an unsafe place for peaceful, law-abiding folk, did not send Beckham and her family running for The Hill… or Columbia County.
“We did not,” she laughed, when asked if she stuck a For Sale sign in her yard the next day. “I was more mad than anything because I felt like I was super naïve to think that something like this couldn’t happen. We moved here at a time when we knew there was a transition going on.”
In fact, that’s precisely why they moved downtown from Summerville’s Russell Street.
“I grew up in the suburbs… Hephzibah, and there’s so much more to Augusta than just the suburbs,” she said. “We live in a very historic area, our house was built in 1899, we walk to dinner and walk home. We have all the amenities of a city.”
And the violence — her family’s first incident in a year of living downtown, it’s worth noting — prompted her to action, even though she was out of town the following week.
“I was on vacation for a week, but I read about it and stayed informed,” she said. “When we got back, I called Coco Rubio and he and I went to lunch on Tuesday.”
Rubio, one of downtown’s biggest advocates, is owner of the Soul Bar and Sky City and Beckham found out that he had already been in touch with Molly McDowell, executive director of the Westobou Festival. McDowell had planned the Westobou 2012 ticket launch around August’s First Friday and was worried what the violence and calls to shut down the event would mean.
So the three decided to organize an event that would highlight all the good to be found in downtown.
“We though it could actually bring a lot of attention to First Friday and we wanted to organize something meaningful,” she said.
The result is Get Down Downtown, two events taking place on First Friday, August 3. The first is a free family event at the Augusta Common that will feature live entertainment from Tara Scheyer and the Mud Puppy Band, Folly and the JAMP (James Brown Academy of Music Pupils) Masters, as well as children’s activities and local food trucks. But no alcohol.
“You keep hearing about drunks on the streets, so we wanted a family friendly, family targeted event,” Beckham said.
While they were planning this event, McDowell had also been working with the Friends with Benefits Fund on a concert that they hoped to have the same night for the 21-35-year-old crowd.
“We were trying to decide which one to do and thought, why don’t we do both?” she said.
The concert at the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre will start at 8 p.m. and will feature Bloodkin, Stewart & Winfield and Funk You. Proceeds from the concert will benefit local charities.
As originally planned, Westobou tickets will be available during First Friday.
Get Down Downtown, however, actually begins this Friday, July 27, with a photo shoot at the amphitheater open to anyone who supports downtown. Those interested in being featured on the cover of the August 2 issue of the Metro Spirit need only show up at 6 p.m.
“For the picture, the idea is to bring exposure to who is downtown,” Beckham explained. “We don’t want people to have the idea that downtown people don’t care and aren’t contributing. We want to feature the faces of downtown: kids, grandparents… the people who aren’t out there shooting people with guns. It’s to give a face to the story and make it make sense.”
Beckham went on to say that the Get Down Downtown initiative is not just about First Friday, and that her loosely formed group doesn’t have a name and doesn’t just kick around ideas like so many of the ineffective groups she’s seen formed in the past. These events, she hopes, will spur people to think past one incident that could have happened anywhere.
“Really we’re just trying to raise awareness, to take a negative story and make it a positive thing and put it behind us,” she said. “We’re trying to better the community for the long haul. Not just for First Friday for one month. We want it to be a better place for forever.”
That, she said, can only happen if those downtown remain committed to the area. And for those who say that the gunfire is prompting them to move? “I think that’s a shame, but there are some people who will not ever be happy or satisfied,” she said. “But if you’re not willing to put in the effort, if you’re going to be a naysayer all the time, then it’s probably best for you to move. You can’t change it. All you can do is say, okay, what are we going to do to make it better?”
Get Down Downtown Photo Shoot Jessye Norman Amphitheatre Friday, July 27 6 p.m. metrospirit.com
Get Down Downtown Family Friendly Event Augusta Common Friday, August 3 5-10 p.m.
Concert w/ Bloodkin, Stewart & Winfield, Funk You Jessye Norman Amphitheatre Friday, August 3 8 p.m. $12 eventbrite.comYou Might Also Like: