Downtown’s 1 Block, 1 Day Festival is A Restoration of Hope

April 2, 2015

Anton Smith

Anton Smith

by Joshua Levine

When 35-year old Anton Smith started officially planning the 1 Block, 1 Day festival back in August, 2014 with the help of the Downtown Tucson Partnership and the CityBoyz Music Group, it was the remarkable end to a journey that began several years ago.

A few years back, Smith says, “I had left Tucson after living here for 12 years. I left Tucson because I had lost hope. And when I came back and saw how much the city had changed, I felt hope again. But I know there’s people here who are losing hope so I felt that now is the time to do something to help restore that.”

And that’s exactly what he plans the outcome of 1 Block, 1 Day, which begins at 7 A.M. on Saturday, April 4 to be. (Admission is $10, though pre-sale wristbands are $7 at eventbrite.com.) Smith, a talented dancer with his own troupe, The Human Project, realized that his idea for a festival based around dance, music, poetry and community was becoming something much bigger than he originally envisioned.

“I wanted to make a festival for what we do,” he says. “There’s other festivals in Tucson like Meet Yourself and Club Crawl but not for what we do. I started thinking about what the festival would be like and I wanted it to be like a huge, old-school East Coast block party — because we do hip-hop.

The Human Project prepares for One Block, One Day

The Human Project prepares for One Block, One Day.

“I started doing reconnaissance around town and looking at blocks and I saw that block on Stone in between Congress and Pennington and that was the block I felt had the most east coast feel. It has huge, tall buildings that just have that natural shade, the streets are close together — I’m from Philly so I’m used to small streets — and the more I saw it I thought that it could be the right block for The Human Project to do our performance.”

The project quickly grew. “The more I thought about it, the more it became bigger than just a performance from the Human Project. It became more like a community arts festival. I realized I kind of sparked something that didn’t exist in Tucson. I decided it had to be just one block, and just one day long because that’s all I could handle. And that’s where the name came from,” he says.

“1 Block, 1 Day means a perfect world,” he adds. “Who doesn’t want that? No matter who you are — black, white, rich, poor — everybody has something in their life they want to go away. So it’s one block, one day where there’s no separation — no gender, no race, nothing. So we’re gonna create this little utopia and hopefully it’ll spring to two blocks and two days, but for now we’ll do it for 24 hours.”

Smith rehearsing with The Human Project.

Smith rehearsing with The Human Project.

After reaching out to performers of all kinds of arts, a schedule for the festival began to emerge. The 24-hour period will open with a sunrise yoga session, a welcome speech from Mayor Rothschild and poetry from the acclaimed Tere Fowler-Chapman. Throughout the day and into the night, there will be more performances, food and various activities, all of which can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

But the message of 1 Block, 1 Day is just as, if not more, important than the physical manifestation of it.

“In society, sometimes people don’t know how to articulate what they feel,” says Smith. “When they really feel a need to articulate whatever they’re feeling they tend to turn to music or poetry and other things to give them their voice. … I want the focus to be on the main stage where that music or poetry or dance will be — I don’t want to spread out the energy too far.

“The festival is about change and hope. It’s possible to do big things, even if it’s just baby steps. Even if it’s one block and one day at a time, we can do this.”

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