‘Movie at the Park’ Brings Film Favorites to Back of the Yards Neighborhood

Hamline parent mentor and BYNC volunteer Marcela Gutierrez manages the concession stand at a free movie night at John H. Hamline Elementary School as part of the Light in the Night initiative.

Disney’s Big Hero 6 was the feature film of the evening at the latest installment of Movie at the Park, an event series hosted by the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) in partnership with the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago (INVC). The gathering took place on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at John H. Hamline Elementary School in the Back of the Yards neighborhood with attendance from local students and families.

The free event, part of the Light in the Night initiative, provided lots of fun and laughter as attendees enjoyed the 2014 superhero film while snacking on popcorn, sandwiches, and nachos. Light in the Night is an ongoing Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) program aimed at reclaiming public spaces to empower communities.

INVC Outreach Worker Delfino Vargas not only oversaw his organization’s donation of food and beverages, but also ensured the event was safe for all, as he was accompanied by several F.L.I.P. (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) workers from around the neighborhood. These individuals serve as peace ambassadors in areas most at-risk for violence.

But in this moment, there was no worry of conflict. Just the promise of community-building and good energy.

“[These events] bring everybody together in unity. And different races, too. It’s something that’s so beautiful and we can come together. That’s my favorite part about it,” Vargas said.

Marcela Gutierrez once walked the halls of Hamline as a student and now works as a parent mentor at the school. As a former BNYC worker turned volunteer, she said she’s proud to serve at such events because it spreads joy among the children.

“I enjoy seeing the kids happy. It’s nice to see them smiling,” Gutierrez said. “[…] They get happy when they see all the stuff—the movie, the nachos, the popcorn. They’re enjoying it instead of being out [in the streets.]”

BYNC and CP4P are also currently engaging the youth with a ten-week winter basketball league at Back of the Yards College Prep. Seventh and eighth graders from around the neighborhood are encouraged to join.

To learn more about upcoming Light in the Night events, check the calendar here.