Originally published in Queens Chronicle.
It was a day nothing seemed to go according to plan. Trains weren’t running properly and large numbers of people weren’t allowed to gather in the park without a permit.
With various logistical problems springing up, Astoria Stand Up organizers cancelled plans for a mass march last Saturday to Bohemian Hall but would not cancel the show at the beer garden that celebrated the Astoria neighborhood.
“The fact that the first [part] didn’t turn out exactly as planned was a blessing. The way it happened was beautifully organic and exactly what we needed,” Paras Chaudhari, one of the organizers of Astoria Stand Up, said. “Something special was born on Saturday and we are going to continue it.”
Astoria Stand Up is a new community-based campaign that aims to foster solidarity among local artists while also gathering support to produce “Astoria Park,” a feature film conceptualized by Chaudhari and Valantis Stamelos.
Last week was the first event organized by the campaign. Despite having to cancel the march, people gathered to watch and dance to a showcase of musicians, singers and poets paying tribute to Astoria.
A number of the performers were from Astoria, while some were artists supportive of the project or had ties to the area.
According to Chaudhari, the campaign came from wanting to find a way to help finance a feature length version of his short film, “Astoria Park.” It’s a film about basketball that deals with homosexuality and race, which he and his film partner, Stamelos, have been working on for years.
He decided to seek help from the community to finance it and found that there was a developing arts community in Astoria that didn’t seem to be recognized.
“You’re seeing more and more places that are having local bands perform. But I don’t know if people outside Astoria know that, know how much talent there is here,” he said.
Astoria Stand Up is now seeking a venue for another event to showcase more local talent and unveil a Kickstarter video for Astoria Park.
“It has been suggested to me to make the movie in another park, in another borough. And I respectfully declined,” Chaudhari said. “This is the neighborhood that’s in my heart. The basketball courts in the neighborhood are the ones I’ve been playing on in the past 10 years.”
To get updates on the campaign, sign up for the mailing list at astoriastandup.com.