Sodden ground and hefty gusts of wind didn't slow down a steady flow of neighbors, students and faculty through a diverse array of events and activities for Columbia University's 250th anniversary at the Columbia 250 Community Festival: Celebrating with our Neighbors. Music, food, art, sports clinics, health screenings and interactive exhibits brightened up the campus and beyond on Saturday, Sept. 18.
"Community Day, part of the University's 250th anniversary, is a time to celebrate the social, cultural and educational connection we share on a daily basis with our neighboring communities," said President Lee C. Bollinger.
"We want to open the doors of our campus to our neighbors and to all of New York City to help us celebrate this special occasion. We hope that community organizations, residents and elected officials -- along with students, parents, faculty and administrators -- will use the day to reflect on the education, health, environment and arts aspects of our extended neighborhood, while having a good time at Columbia University," he added.
While many events took place outside, Low Library was host to a mock trial featuring real politicians and young scholars. As befitting a New York City Council hearing, passionate testimony elicited probing questions as the facts of a proposed change in a transit program were examined and its merits debated.
For Council Members Robert Jackson, Bill Perkins and Gale Brewer, who were carefully examining the proposal before them, this was the familiar stuff of democratic process. For the 10 high school students each taking a turn to testify in this mock public hearing, it was an exhilarating lesson in thinking critically about the complexities of public issues. U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, who was on hand to welcome the audience gathered in Low Library and initiate the proceedings, captured the spirit of the day when he told the young citizens that they all had a hand in making things better.
The students, all part of Columbia's Double Discovery Center, drew from their experiences to identify a proposal for the council to consider and then prepared, organized and presented information to the committee. Double Discovery, begun by Columbia College students in 1965, provides educational programs and services to low-income, first-generation college bound, middle and senior high school students in New York City.
After the mock trial Jean Magnano Bollinger presented Norman Messiah with the first prize in the Community Festival Art Competition for his oil on canvas piece, titled, "Community Block Party."
Meanwhile, world-famous musicians such as Taj Mahal and Eddie Palmieri y La Perfecta II braved strong winds and the threat of downpours to deliver rousing sets in front of damp, yet eager fans on the South Lawn. Dee Dee Bridgewater closed the afternoon's performances, receiving a bouquet of flowers from Bob O'Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of the Center for Jazz Studies.
With the rain washing out tennis clinics, Levien Gymnasium was host to lively basketball clinics for participants of all ages. On 116th Street between Morningside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue, children's art exhibits, carnival games and other activities for the younger members of the community packed the entire block.