'Jump On It' All Summer At Givens Park

Jun 19, 2017

"I used to always talk to my mom about wanting to do something in the park -- something creative, something that would bring the community together," says NOOK Turner about the origins of Jump On It. Twenty years ago, when Turner was still a teenager, he was given the opportunity to create the summer concert series when he answered a citywide call for ideas on using Rosewood Park.

Inspired by Jam City, a defunct but once popular local cable access dance show and Rosewood Park's famed Juneteenth celebrations, Turner wanted to "bring ... all of that together in one event and call it Jump On It."

That name was conceived by Turner's mother; he initially rejected it. "I was like, 'Nah, that's kind of lame. Let's think of something else,'" he says. But during a meeting with the city, when pressed for a name for his proposed event, he instinctively said "Jump On It," and the name stuck.

"Basically ... the idea was that we wanted people to 'jump on' the bandwagon of coming back to the Eastside, of paying homage to our community and our culture and to reclaim your thing," Turner says. "We wanted people to reclaim Rosewood Park, reclaim our communities, because we were seeing at that point that we were losing our communities."

From 1997-2003, Jump On It produced a summerlong series of concerts; after that, it transformed a bit, offering single concerts and community benefits before coming back as a full concert series in 2014. This year, Jump On It will take place every Wednesday between June 21 and Aug. 9 in Givens Park, offering up not just live music, but also games, food vendors and educational outreach that'll focus on financial literacy and healthcare.

This summer, Jump On It is celebrating its 20th anniversary. "Looking at 20 years, I'm excited, but I'm also reminded that what we were going through when we first started the event, we're still going through it,"  Turner says. "So it's a kind of reality check."

When it started, Jump On It was, at least in part, a response to gentrification; 20 years later, that's still very much an issue in East Austin. "The culture and history was so thick there, as far as African-Americans. And now you rarely see it," Turner says. 

"When we first started, [we'd] get 2,000 people just walking over. Now that's not the case," he says. "The majority of our crowd, especially the youth, they don't live on the Eastside." For Turner, keeping the spirit of that community alive, even as the population has dispersed, is the most important aspect of Jump On It.

"As a black community, we need to value what we have. We need to value ourselves," Turner says. "And we're just taught so much, and kids are taught so much, that they have no value. And that's what we're trying to instill back into them: 'No, you're great. You came from greatness.'"

For Jump On It to continue to thrive and grow, Turner's hoping that the newer residents of Austin's Eastside will also come out and experience it. "The community has to support it," he says. "The community that's here now  has to support it and embrace it and come out and enjoy the culture. I would love for it to stay in this community, because this is where it originated ... and it'll be one of those things that we kept here."

Jump On It is every Wednesday from June 21 through Aug. 9 at Givens Park.