Sing-alongs, bear hunts and block parties: residents come together during shelter-in-place order


Photo courtesy Jay Shefsky

A Ninth Ward block party under the statewide shelter-in-place order. Evanston residents on this block come out almost every night at 6 p.m. to socialize.

Rayna Song, Reporter

On Wednesday afternoon, Evanston residents stuck in home opened their doors and windows to sing together.

“Imagine I go outside and start singing and then the same song is being sung three houses down by somebody I don’t know,” sing-along organizer Bita Cabrera said. “It is almost like we are doing something together.”

The sing-along is one of several events bringing the community together while residents practice social distancing during the statewide shelter-in-place order.

Evanston residents sang “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” “I Will Survive” and “Happy Birthday.” Cabrera, who lives in the 5th Ward, intentionally selected songs with positive messages. “Happy Birthday” was chosen for all birthdays during the pandemic that have gone uncelebrated.

Cabrera said she is already planning sing-alongs for the coming weeks. She wants even more people to join in.

Ninth Ward resident Husayn Allmart helped organize a “bear hunt.” Participants put bears in their windows and listed their address in a Google Sheet. Families with young children “hunt” for these bears, using the Google Sheet as a guide. The bears ranged from stuffed animals to sketches.

Allmart wants to organize a similar “hunt” every week, but with a different animal or theme each time.

“It has been really positive,” Allmart said. “It is a simple thing that we can do with our kids, that is outside but still (respects) physical distance.”

A parent of two four-year-olds, Allmart said the scavenger hunt was a good way to get children off of their electronic devices and go outside.

“It makes us feel like a community,” Allmart said. “It is a sweet thing we can all do.”

Last week, 9th Ward resident Emma Daisy organized a makeshift block party. Neighbors came out at 6 p.m. to socialize but still maintained a distance of at least six feet. Daisy’s three-year-old son sang and played the ukulele.

Since then, almost every night at 6 p.m., people have come out to greet each other and be social.

Daisy said parents are frustrated because under the stay-at-home order, they have had to homeschool and care for their children during all hours of the day. People who work from home are also frustrated because of the general lack of personal contact.

Daisy said the block party was her way of facilitating some face-to-face contact. She said she has seen social interaction raise neighborhood spirits.

The block party “revived the neighborhood community when we have lost a lot of our social contacts,” Daisy said. “It’s a way to check in and to bring a little bit of levity to what otherwise is a pretty frustrating situation.”

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