Dinner is served Thursday on the 38th Street bridge

Eat for Equity will cater a menu that includes barbeque black eyed peas and parmesan grits. Photo by Jesse Eustis

Now that the 38th Street bridge has reopened over Interstate 35W, neighbors will gather for a sit-down dinner — on the bridge — on Thursday, Aug. 16.

The evening will feature live music, kid-friendly activities, dinner and conversation.

Volunteers at Eat for Equity have started preparing about 200 meals, with a menu loosely based on a southern heritage meal they’ve served at Bonnaroo in Tennessee. The menu includes soda with rhubarb grown from the neighborhood, vegan spreads with veggies grown by the Hmong American Farmers Association, parmesan grits, halal pulled beef or pulled hibiscus, and ice cream sandwiches. (Sign up to help prepare food here.) Baker’s Field Flour and Bread will bake fresh bread in the community outdoor oven at 38th & Pleasant.

Council Member Andrea Jenkins said she’s wanted to see this type of event for years as part of a broader movement to connect both sides of the freeway. The movement grew out of a debate over whether to locate a dog park at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, she said, and evolved into efforts to unite the city, such as the upcoming event “Celebrate Our Beloved Community” on Aug. 18 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at MLK Park.

“’Building Bridges’ is this concept that we need to get people from both sides of the freeway talking to each other,” Jenkins said.

Marnita’s Table will facilitate a dinner conversation that aims to bring people beyond small talk into meaningful conversation. Topics will include favorite spots in the neighborhood, ways to become involved in the community, and what it means to be welcoming.

The 38th Street bridge closed for reconstruction in March. Jenkins said she’s glad to see that the reconstructed bridge is better lit and more pedestrian-friendly.

The Minnesota Dept. of Transportation convened a group of community leaders to brainstorm ideas for a bridge celebration. Along with Jenkins and the aforementioned groups, additional co-hosts include Blackeye Roasting Co, Bryant Neighborhood Organization, Center for Performing Arts, Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization, Lyndale Neighborhood Association, Kente Circle, Kingfield Neighborhood Association, Litin Eco, Sabathani Community Center, Seward Community Co-op Friendship Store, Southside Community Health Services and Xcel Energy.

The event runs from 4 p.m.-8 p.m., with dinner served at 5:45 p.m. For more information, visit the Facebook event page Building Bridges and Breaking Bread.