Bringing a street to life

By weeklyvolcano on November 1, 2007

It seems somehow fitting that the guy who posed the idea for Tacoma’s Dia de los Muertos festival originally came up with the idea of a community-building event by melding together memories of a similar festival in the Phinney Ridge area of Ballard and inspiration from the grass-roots efforts of Lynn Di Nino’s Monkey Parties.

Morgan Alexander was raised in Tacoma and moved on to Seattle lured by the University of Washington.

“I had an arts degree, where I was more interested in creative solutions to problems,” he explains.

“Before I moved back down here, I was involved with the Fremont Arts Council.” He adds, “It was so inspiring to see what they created,” elaborating, “I like that kind of attitude and spirit, the do it yourself attitude.” He considers it to be “building a community by building these neighborhood events.”

Coming back down to his hometown, Alexander decided to create a difference, incubating ideas including Historic Tacoma, TacomaWorks, and Dia de los Muertos.

As with Historic Tacoma, momentum built quickly with the Dia de los Muertos event,

“It was started out as a community building project, and so far it looks like the experiment is working.”

“Basically, I was looking for a signature event, when I had the idea of creating a community-building event. I originally thought of doing it on the Eastside, but then I approached the Sixth Avenue Business District.” He acknowledges that the organizational leadership has helped the event become successful.

Additionally, the community has stepped up to help put on the workshops.

Originally, Alexander considered all the different facets of Dia de los Muertos for the “signature event” that would help to fill a community that seemed to be lacking in events. Recalling the success of the Phinney Ridge procession, he hit on that as the idea.

“The goal from the beginning was to take over the neighborhood, not really close down the streets,” Alexander reflects. “I want there to be more community involvement events.”

He adds, “My inspiration was Lynn Di Nino doing her 100th Monkey parties.” The grassroots event “illustrates the hunger for community. The original goal was get to the 100th Monkey; now it’s a success. I would like to see a dozen or so similar groups. It just takes that one monkey to start it.”

For his part, the monkey who started Dia de los Muertos is working on other projects as well. “I’m always thinking of projects,” Alexander chuckles.

A few initiatives close to his heart recently: helping the proposed streetcar idea build momentum and expanding neighborhood grants programs, as well as halting the Sound Transit Pacific Avenue crossing.

Now he just wants to recruit many more civically engaged community activists to help wake up the neighborhoods of Tacoma, to create vibrant events Alexander says will “show off, hey this neighborhood is alive.”

Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m. at Masa, Sixth Avenue will show off, “hey, we’re alive” in the spirit of honoring death.

Sounds cool to me! â€" Jessica Corey-Butler

DAY OF THE DEAD: Local happenings.