On Mending a torn Community

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There is little that love and respect for yourself and others cannot mend. In a broken community that is constantly being torn, dissected and separated into race and class because of the events of a cultural and national tragedy, the one thing that can bring unity and peace back to a divided town is love for yourself, and your brother. When you first see value in yourself, regardless of what other people may see, you will begin to see it in other people who look just like you. Value in others should be assumed until proven otherwise. No one should start off with zero value and then have to prove themselves to be worthy of your attention, your courtesy, or their basic inalienable human rights. We are born with inalienable rights, given to us from the creator of life itself. You can call that God, or the Universe, or Buddah, or Mother Nature, or the Big Kahuna, or The Force, or the Zone. (I prefer the Force and The Zone) But it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you understand the meaning behind it. Born into this world, you have value, even if it’s all in a potential state. Say, a college student has value which is mostly stored in potential until he or she enters the work force or uses their education to bring value to society. Even the corner boy has potential value as he can change when he desires to, and chart a new path. And there are plenty of people who contribute to society and bring value to us all, every single day. Human beings have value by virtue of being human and having the ability to change. Every life born is inherently worth preserving.
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As the most recent events that are flooding the news with images of protesters, dead bodies, police in full riot gear, the call for peace rings out over a community that is experiencing the outcome of circumstances that have been in place for too long. When men fail to see the value in themselves and each other, they deteriorate mentally into a condition where they are unaware, suppressed, ignorant, and clueless to the way society perceives them. As the larger society sees little value in them, so the cycle perpetuates itself. Men who see little to no value in themselves, little to no value in each other, and a larger society who sees little to no value in them as well are more easily subjected to such tragedies. It aint right, but it happens. The cycle can be broken when the individual who is in full control of his emotions and ideas decides to change his perspective and see the value he can bring to his community and to society as a whole. Though it is not enough to just begin to think or believe you have value based on no merit in the hopes that it will change things overnight. Yes, it is a start, but for it to last, and for anything of value to last, it must be recognized and it can be done by placing this theory into action. You must then give value to yourself, to your brothers, to your community. You give yourself value by educating yourself, be teaching yourself a new skill, by actively seeking a teacher or mentor, by eating an apple a day for your health, by taking a walk around the block for the longevity of your life. You give value to your brother by seeing value in him, talking to him in the hopes that you may be able to understand him, and by earnestly wanting him to become the best version of himself possible. You bring value to your community by looking after the elderly in a respectful manner, by not littering, by guiding children who may not be your own in the way they should grow, and by identifying yourself as a respectable citizen of that community. And yes, when the time comes to peacefully protest in the face of an injustice, you surely do that to. And when the protests are over, when the news cameras have gone, when the blood in the streets have washed away, you should still hold on to your oath and your values of a strong community, a strong brotherhood, and a strong human being who has and gives value to the world.
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The Modern Benjamin is admittedly not the average of men. He always strives to be above and beyond average, but it is common sense that should be taught that no matter how dysfunctional our police force, our government, our communities, our institutions, our systems, no matter how limited our resources, or how meek our voices may be by comparison to a majority, that they are still ALL WE HAVE TO WORK WITH. And we must work wisely with what we have. Such a perspective should not be reserved to the elite. WE ALL have the SAME set up and we must navigate through it and use it to get the results we want. It starts with the individual; for all great change comes from the few minds of those determined to change the present and future.

Why Should You Value Women?

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Behind every great man is a great woman so the popular phrasing goes. But that is not to mean the great woman is figuratively behind him. Although a powerful man may take the helm and be out front in the public eye he his more than likely either grounded by his spouse or life partner, or quite possibly lead to be a greater man by her, which would position her out in front. Assuming she is the more enlightened of the two, dragging him out of his caveman like behavior. A great woman does have the distinct power to do this. The position of this mysterious great woman who is unseen to the public does not likely have a static position in his life but plays a large encompassing role to such a singular focused specimen. The great woman orbits the great man as the Moon orbits the Earth. She’s not in one place, she’s not just mother, or wife, or sister, or confidant, or lover, or therapist, or friend, or caretaker. She, being a great woman, has more than one role and more than one dimension in the great drama of life.
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As this great man gives value to society in an encompassing role, so to does the woman who is able to hold on to him, give value to her man on a variety of fronts. She is perhaps even stronger than her man as she may be the catalyst that drives him, or the focus that makes him precise, or the dreamer that gives him the picture for which to paint. In however a way that a muse is applied, she may likely play more than one part in his life if he is truly a mean of great measure. In her immense and often subtle power, she may find it in her infinite wisdom not to flaunt her more powerful existence in the face of his frail ego. She may break him by doing so. That is real power, the power to spur another on and though she is the reason he can do all sorts of wonderful things, reach a multitude of people because of her influence over him, and because she civilizes him as all women do their man of choice; when she refrains from tearing him down as easily as she can unplug a lamp that gives light to a room with the swift jerk of an extension cord; she is then keeping her secret to the world that all the while, it is your masculinity being manipulated by her drive.  
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Strong women are the puppeteers and we are the puppets in the great drama of life. They are the reason we go about changing the course of history. Would there have been a Trojan war without the abduction of Helen of Troy? Is this not a man’s world that would mean little to nothing without a woman or a girl? To paraphrase the gospel of James Brown and although they are song lyrics it would not be wise discredit it. The lyrics of songs have very often tried to get us to understand and underlying meaning in life. Their merits hold just as equally as any good book depending on the author.  
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Just as you cannot thrive in society as a business man without people who aid in commerce and make business itself possible; you may not fully reach your true potential without the aide of some woman who sees you as greater than you currently are. When you can see yourself through the eyes of the woman who is enamored with you for whatever reason, it helps to provide you with an ideal to live up to. Maybe even a future that you hadn’t envisioned yourself. Or maybe you could, but it was a bit foggy. Women have a knack for details and I mean every little, tiny detail. Success is in the details and it’s no surprise that the encouragement of the right people will help to propel you to the places you need to be, to do the things you need to do, and to go about attaining the things you want and need to have.
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Women have the power to refine men, to give us something to fight for, to give us something to look forward to, and to prepare us for events that we may not have seen coming. Cherish a great woman. See the value in her, not just for what she can do for you, but for what she can bring to the world as a whole. Likely, she will see the same value in you, if not to some greater extent.

There’s a story I read recently that is hard for me to recount verbatim although the central theme is pravelant. When the POTUS, Barack Obama, was running for re-election, he visited a restaurant to do some campaigning. During his usual kissing babies and shaking hands routine, he got a chance to sit down in the restaurant and talk to the restaurant owner over a meal. He was campaigning with his wife, Michelle, and a dialogue was struck between the three as people looked on. The First Lady and the restaurant owner as it turned out lived in the same neighborhood as children and perhaps attended the same high school. Upon such news, the POTUS turned to his lovely wife and said something to the affect of “Honey, if you would’ve married him instead of me, you would’ve been the wife of a wonderful restaurant owner. His food is delicious, and I love it.” Without skipping a beat, the FLOTUS turned to her powerful husband and said, “No, If I would’ve married him, he would’ve been the President of The United States.”
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Can art bring a community together?

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Can art add to your quality of life? I suppose it matters the quality of the art, and what it means or how it speaks to you. What it reminds you of, and where it takes you once you’ve been exposed to it. Was it made in the spirit of love or joy? Was it thrown together in haste and despair? This could be the difference between aggressive graffiti, and the lovely murals and visual arts pieces we enjoy in Brewerytown and throughout Philadelphia. Good art can improve a community’s quality of life as a whole. When you are looking to have a community with a high quality of life, there need to be high-quality, low-cost, fun things for people to do. Events as simple as painting a wall, making a mural, are the types of small things that get people active and involved and unifies us as a community.
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Philly is known for a lot of beautiful and awesome things. Food? We’ve got tons of food, across cultures, all the steak and cheese, soft pretzels, and Italian ices you could ask for. Our rich history includes but is not limited to the Liberty Bell, which signifies our city as the birthplace of freedom and the US Constitution. In fact the the entire city is a place of historical reference and happenings, which most people already know. What we have that often slips under the radar, but also adds to the quality of life in Brewerytown, and beautifies our atmosphere, are murals and visual art pieces. The walls in our little part of the city are covered in painted artwork often depicting a story, or message, with an array of colors, and textures that appeal to the eye, stimulate the senses and captivate the mind. And that’s what art is supposed to do, right? Brewerytown’s rich culture, and history is found in the many murals painted by artists who lend their talents to organizations like the Mural Arts Program.

There are many different factors which, added together make living in Brewerytown special. One of which is the budding arts “scene” embraced and cultivated by the young residents who love B-town so much. With the influx of creative professionals, and the legacy of residents who have been living in Brewerytown all their lives; the landscape in which we live has become a canvas for self-expression to the benefit of our community. Brewerytown is no square plain place, with square plain people, ideas, or outlets. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that….or the burbs, but this just isn’t it.) Brewerytown is a constantly growing, evolving, colorful part of town that is alive, awake and aware of its maturation in to something increasingly beautiful. We, the residents, and the people who come to visit, are the ones who make it so. And evidence of our human spirit is in the artwork.

Murals help to set the scene for parks, gardens, and gatherings. They go hand in hand with block parties, barbecue’s, and fireworks. Murals are the background pieces to the story of our lives; the grand play in which we all have a role, however substantial or infinitesimal. Often, murals are as beautiful as nature herself and, when we appreciate our surroundings, it sets the stage for creating more of what we already love about this part of town.

Is Escapism Welcoming A Healthy Distraction?

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If you’re in a place that you’d rather not be, if you feel stuck and constrained by your surroundings, if this happens too often then you may be able to find solace in escapism. As a practice, Escapism is the ability to transcend your surroundings and perhaps even picture yourself somewhere you’d much rather be. Much like daydreaming. Escapism is a concept that not enough people take advantage of, especially working adults. As often as adults can forget that play is important in your daily life as well as lifelong development, so-to is daydreaming, and letting your mind soar to new heights often a practice that’s overlooked. When you seek or need distraction from events or an environment that isn’t helpful to you, one of the best ways to escape, particularly from poverty stricken ailments, is in reading. As reading allows you to venture to a time and place where you currently cannot physically occupy, your mind will be strengthened because it takes a break from having to constantly fight with the actual pressures that you have to put up with day by day. A healthy diversion can do you a lot of good, even when in small doses.

Long and drawn out fantasies during the middle of your workday could border on unproductive. You can live in the clouds, but you must come down from time to to time to handle your affairs on earth. You don’t want to be zoning out when your boss walks into your workstation, but whenever you get the opportunity to begin to dream about where you’d rather be instead of the possible hell in which you currently inhabit; do it! It can be very relaxing to think about places you could go, to imagine them in great detail if possible, and it might even allow you to reach those actual places should the opportunity present itself because you’ve thought it out. Can you foresee a bit of the circumstances or changes that are heading for your life, it’s because you had the time to at first ponder it; then of course you took some kind of action.

There can even be a bit of mental tension released in the ability to create something. Letting your mind drift in the creative process is also a great way to transcend your surroundings. Whether your medium is writing or painting, or play-dough or even if you literally are just playing with your children or your dog in the park, coming up with new games and making up new rules in the moment (as most children do). Letting yourself go and even playing imaginative games can be help you to facilitate the realm of creativity that gives your mind a break from the dullness or ailments that can plague you. One of my favorite things is asking hypothetical questions to my dog, or asking his opinion of something, as it is more an exercise of me trying to understand or get a better hold on a particular subject.
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In the creative process, you can also change the paradigm of your normal setting. You can create the circumstances where the geek gets the girl, or where the princess finds her prince charming or what have you. It matters more that you are able to create the things you wish so badly to begin with; instead of reliving and focusing on the surroundings that you wish to change or didn’t exist. Yes, you should see things as they are, a heavy dose of reality is needed for anyone who wants to be a leader and who truly desires the tools in which to change. But a grand imagination of the things that are possible, of what could-be is also necessary in order to get people to move in that direction. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous speech was titled “I have a dream”; not “I have an issue” which would’ve changed the focus from what was possible to what was presently happening. When he needed to inspire a nation, he did so through the creative process of imagining the possibilities.

Some diversions from mental angst can be detrimental in the long run if used in excess. To be a couch potato, or someone who watches sports or cat videos endlessly, or if you never actually pay attention to what’s going on; missing out constantly on the important things in life is not the aim or goal of escapism. You must be aware and surely you are if you are the Modern Benjamin, that certain attentions must be paid to the important things in life. Certain areas must not be ignored if you are to transcend them, yes you must find your way out of a dark cave from time to time, and you must find the light at the end of the tunnel when the chips are down, these require practical actions and a plan sometimes to make something out of nothing. That can’t be done by wishing on a star. Though, you may learn that it is necessary to stop, think outside of the box, and come up with a solution to your problems by disconnecting from your struggle and using a healthy diversion to trigger and facilitate the creative process that can actually bring you out.

Extraordinary Gentlemen : Coach Monty Fountain

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Southern High School Football Coaches are a special breed. In a place where football is the main attraction to a small town, the experience of southern high school football borders on the same parallel as religious experiences or rituals. No, people aren’t shaking and convulsing on the ground catching the “Holy Spirit” well, almost not.
(Some people definitely get laid out from time to time.) There’s an enormous rallying spirit behind the games played, the effort it took to create the display of unifying colors, intricate plays, witty banners, marching bands, and spectacular athletic ability among boys who are turning into men, and in some circumstances transforming into modern gladiators.

There are many people who come together to make a football program run like a well oiled machine. There can be nearly a dozen specialized coaches, trainers, administrators, sponsors, businesses, zealous parents, and of course the athletes themselves. Most southern high school football programs have most all of these elements if not more going on at once. But there’s something else that creates the catalyst for a winning team, able talent to go above and beyond what they think is possible and students to become productive members of society. That catalyst is the man with the plan, that fuel of inspiration comes from the coach himself.

Of all the coaches at Douglas County High School in Georgia, during my time there as a student and athlete, one man stood out among the rest to me, and to many other players. His distinct southern accent, the twang in his dialect, the enthusiasm in his body, and hard nosed determination to make us all “Brahma Bulls” helped to carry some of us to new heights under his guidance and tutelage. When many of us were without father figures, he played a role in our lives that didn’t set out to fill the void we were missing, but somehow it did. He just wanted us to win, and win by becoming the best versions of ourselves possible on and off the field. Coach Monty Fountain was my high school linebacker coach and he’s helped to make a man out of me at a time when I was hard to reach. On the field, he made me into a fearless, relentless, and unstoppable modern gladiator.

Sure we ran football drills and practiced at a high level, nearly at a game like pace every time. But there was something about the man that you could fear and respect at the same time. The pitch of his whistle reverberated throughout the practice field and spilled over into residential areas as he instructed us to push pass the brink of what we thought was possible. Water was always available and you could quit if you wanted to….but for Coach Fountain you wouldn’t dream of quitting in front of him. He believed in you, and you never wanted to let his high expectation be in vain. Pads clashed and sweat would pour from your brow as you ran drills over and over until they became second nature. You instinctively knew what to do under a myriad of random situations that would present themselves.
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No sense in whining and pouting over small cuts and bruises. If your bone wasn’t sticking out of your skin, you were better off getting back to work. “Put some dirt on it!” If you were throwing up during practice, Coach Fountain wouldn’t be upset, he’d just yell at you “Get that poison out your system!” He was usually right, as teenagers shouldn’t go drinking at party’s just to arrive to practice the next day expecting their linebacker coach to take it lightly on them. We were a mixed bunch of kids from different backgrounds and cultures but what he tried to instill in us transcended all of our differences. Most of our coaches took a page right out of the great Vince Lombardi’s playbook and decided that if we weren’t going to be the most talented players on the filed, we would at least be the best conditioned. We were talented, we were conditioned and we were some of the baddest mothers on the planet. Till this day, I’m proud to be considered a Fountain Linebacker, and I hope to be the Brahma Bull he always believed I was and could be during my times of ups and downs. (The urban dictionary for Brahma Bull is the pinnacle of human evolution, there is none better than him. He is truly a god among men.) Takes one to know one, Coach Fountain.

Is setting goals cheating?

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Turns out that having goals in your mind is far greater than having no goals at all, and that writing goals down is even greater than just having them in your mind. The conclusion seems a bit obvious here….set goals. In order to make things happen, you must first decide on what it is you want to do, and to make it a stronger, more permanent reality, you should write it down in order to achieve it.

In my own personal experience as the Modern Benjamin I have mostly thought out my goals pretty thoroughly and harped on them from time to time, or if I write them in my journal, they are vague at best but even the process of writing them down has a certain quality and power behind it. It magnifies the possibilities.

Most successful people have a zeal for goal setting. Wether they be athletes, CEO’s, politicians, managers, or salespeople; like the Modern Benjamin, they know what they want out of life and they take the necessary steps to go out and get it. To be Fearless, Relentless, and Unstoppable, those are the traits that come when goal setting is done frequently. You’re confidence level increases nearly ten fold. You’ll see why once you begin. Or if you’ve already been an avid goal setter, you may know this feeling and phenomena already.
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People don’t achieve greatness by accident. No one mistakenly becomes an astronaut or just happens to walk into an astronaut job fair. There’s an entire long and meticulous process behind the end result of such responsibility. It’s the daily triumphs no matter how small, that over time build up into something much greater than perhaps even you thought would be possible.

You’ll read about it in dozens if not hundreds of business books; about the importance of goal setting, but it often comes off as too simple and easy to work. With the way things are set up in this lifetime, we could definitely all use a bit more simplicity in our lives. No, this isn’t a short-cut to actually doing work, though it’s a tool to help you discipline yourself so that you actually get some work done….you know, instead of wishing on a star.
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A Yale study was conducted in 1973 over a group of students where 3 percent of the students surveyed had written down their goals with a plan of action to achieve them, 13 percent of the students said they had goals but had not written any down and the remaining students (84 percent) had no specific goals, except for to “enjoy themselves.” Results have found that the difference between the goal setters and those who did not set goals were “stunning”. Here’s how things ultimately played out for the students: For the 13 percent who did have goals but hadn’t written them down, they earned on average twice as much as the 84 percent of students who had no goals at all. Even more impressive is the group of students (3 percent) who had written down their goals and also had a plan of action; had earned on average 10 times as much as the entire 97 percent of the class. This study points to the magnitude and power that is contained in something as simple as goal setting. It’s like you force yourself to find a way to do nearly the impossible. And for the Modern Benjamin, there’s nothing in this world that is nearly impossible. “If I can do it, so can you.” is the testimony that typically spurs our kind along.

Shouldn’t kids have a music festival?

Is a music festival for kids a great idea? You better believe it! The only thing cuter than puppies and kittens are kids. (This is a scientific fact…i think) I’ve had dozens of puppies throughout my life and although I currently do not have children, there’s nothing like the look of discovery worn on my little nephew or nieces’ faces. Or the sense of amazement and wonder that surrounds them on a constant basis. When everything is new, it all seems so spectacular.
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That may have been a long introduction to announce that Kidchella is coming to Smith Playground, just a walk away from Brewerytown and it’s nearly guaranteed to be a complete fun blast! Weather permitting, you should definitely bring your kids, or borrow a kid, (you know, like a nephew, niece, or young cousin) seriously, check this thing out. Now, granted the name “Kidchella” is a resemblance of a weekend of young adult, spring-breaker style madness Coachella, but the acts that are going to perform are solid and fit for all ages! If your kids love music, and if you are an awesome parent….(you are an awesome parent, you’re reading this aren’t you?) You might want to take a look at Kidchella because here is where the kids get a chance to experience live music (one of the best forms of entertainment in my opinion) under your supervision, and it’s entirely age appropriate. This could ligitimately be your childs first concert! How cool could that be? Visit here and find out.

Kidchella is coming to Smith playground this Friday on the 25th and it will last from 6 – 8 pm. The bill is highlighted by three bands that are spectacular in their own right. Brady Rymer, Walter Martin, and The Not-Its will be onstage. It won’t last for days on end, nor will it be flooded with 20 somethings, without responsibilities and way too much recreational time on their hands. Kidchella is actually one of those great ideas that you’d love to see more of because it creates an opportunity for children to learn about music, spark their interest about music as an art form, and allows you to give them the experience of a music festival and all the fun that can possibly be had while under the supervision of adults.

Check out this press release

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You may have seen posters and signs around Brewerytown advertising the music fest for weeks now. If you can make the time, if you love music, and if you’d like to show your children what rock and roll, and fun are supposed to look like, then guess where you’ll likely be heading to?? Kidchella! Tickets are only $10 at smithplayground.ticketleap.com/kidchella, however, admission is free for current members of Smith playground. If you’re not a member, but would like to become one, you can become a member by visiting smithplayground.org/membership.

So who came up with the idea for Kidchella anyway? I always credit “the genius’ in marketing” whenever my attention is brought to something you previously had no awareness of, but has now become one of those things you know you have to experience for yourself. Aside from being the type of thing that celebrities are into now-a-days; Kidchella doesn’t have to involve multiple stages, carnival rides, or fire spitting performers to be an authentic music festival experience. Although, there may be some face painting, and an opportunity for you and the children to hang out with and interact with the band during and after the show, Kidchella, and all music festivals like it are going to soon become the desire of birthday boys and girls everywhere. Better than a magician, better than a clown (which too often scares the ba-jee-zus out of kids), this is a party for children that you are allowed to enjoy as well. To be honest, there isn’t much that can compete with a live band on stage, and especially if they are good.

So who is on the bill? The Not-Its have been rocking and rolling, performing for kids and families for over six years. They are all about giving children the first rock show experience (head banging should be done with supervision) They are from Seattle, are the sum of five members and they have released their 5th album to date called “Raise Your Hand”. You can check out their sound on their bands website (http://wearethenot-its.com/music/). With songs like “Funniest Cat Video”, “Motorcycle Mom” and “Great Day”, The Not-It’s provide an up beat rock/indie vibe that both adults and children can really jam to.

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Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could : Brady Rymer is a musician who’s been recording and touring with RCA records for 13 years. He’s been on stage with names like Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, The Grateful Dead before, so he’s no amateur when it comes to putting on a show that all people can enjoy. Lucky for us, he’s decided to create children’s music and give the little tykes an opportunity to hear music that’s not only age appropriate, but contains a positive, upbeat message along with a catchy tune that may be hard to get out of your head. All the great songs are like that. You may just find yourself singing “Just say Hi” on your way to work or during your coffee break. He’s a great songwriter, and backed by an energetic, talented band, Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could will likely be there to make a wonderful impressionable mark on your children and yourself as well.

Walter Martin is the third man on the bill and his sound helps to round out the collective experience of the music festival as his songs are a bit slower in tempo, feature animal noises and sound effects, all playing the back track to his rural draw and the slight southern twang of Walter Martin’s voice and pitch of guitar. This isn’t just kids music, no, this is music for all ages. True and true, Walter Martin writes beautiful songs, plays a beautiful melody and just makes you want to place the world on time out, stop your children from growing for a moment, and enjoy the moment that’s created the moment he starts strumming his guitar and spreading his vocals through the P.A. system.

So this Friday, with all the wonderful things going on in Brewery town and around the city as a whole. Under the summer sun, and through the atmosphere of fun, if you’re going to create memories with your little tykes, think about creating some with good music and good fun at Smith Playground with Kidchella. Oh, to be a kid again.