By Maggie Attridge
For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought social isolation and fewer opportunities to be involved in their community. Luckily for those living along the Route 1 Corridor, a number of communities have come together to offer connections through virtual programming.
Corridor Conversations was born when members of Hyattsville Aging in Place (HAP), Helping Hands University Park, Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) and Explorations on Aging College Park joined forces to create programming about the area.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t we offer programs and really try to welcome people and invite them from our jurisdictions, but also the towns that have no village?’” said Loretta Saks, chairperson of Helping Hands University Park. “‘Why don’t we join together, especially during COVID, when it’s just so easy to bring lots and lots of people together [virtually].’ So it was kind of a no-brainer.”
The main goal of Corridor Conversations is to provide fun and interesting programs to people in the area, according to Lisa Walker, HAP board chair. The organization, though not limited to a specific age group, also sets out to provide an outlet to inform and involve seniors, some of whom may feel particularly isolated during the pandemic, noted Mary Anne Hakes, who works with Explorations on Aging.
“We really want to create and build a Route 1 community so it isn’t just University Park or Hyattsville or Brentwood, but rather a consortium of communities that are all interdependent, and make life richer here,” said Bonnie McClellan, who also works with Explorations on Aging.
The monthly programs offered by Corridor Conversations cover a range of topics, including gardening, local bird species, astronomy and Shakespeare.
“Traditionally, topics such as aging have limited the [range of] people that participate. So we really wanted to make this intergenerational, open to anybody, and [include] more fun topics,” said Walker.
The inaugural event, “Black Lives Matter: North Brentwood 1887 to Today,” took place Feb. 25. This theme was purposefully chosen to coincide with Black History Month. Speakers and community members shared their experiences of growing up in a sundown town and attending a newly desegregated high school. Lifelong resident and North Brentwood Mayor Petrella Robinson was one of the hosts.
“I think many of us have known that North Brentwood was the first African American community settled in Prince George’s County,” said Walker. “The details about the sundown towns, for example, where people had to be back home when the sun went down. Mayor Robinson was pretty clear that as a young person, people just didn’t go into Hyattsville, all of that was an eye-opening experience.”
“There was a real spotlight on the racism that has somewhat been overcome in our communities, where it was our communities that were saying to Black people, ‘You have to be home by sundown.’ There were real limitations on occupations that have been overcome for the most part, but we all know that there is still systemic racism that we’re still working on,” said John Payne, NHN board president.
While Corridor Conversations’s offerings are exclusively online right now, the organizers are looking forward to holding in-person events, once the circumstances allow it. “We saw some real response in the community with wanting to know more, and I think that we would like to pursue that,” said Walker.
The next event, a virtual discussion with local author Carol Pearson, will be on March 31. To register, visit hyattsvilleaginginplace.org/programs-and-activities/corridor-conversations.