Trash and urban blight have become interlinked, with one, usually preceding the other. One famous, local musician has made it his passion to change the landscape. Read about the awesome thing he does after the jump!
It's a sweltering Jacksonville summer, combined with the exhaust and motor sounds of 5 o'clock traffic. There's a general malaise in the air that prevents most of us from going outside. That is, unless you're Patrick McMillan. Dutifully, he removes his shirt, hops on his bike, and makes a beeline to Riverside Park. He's adopted this park as well as a few other frequented locations in town. Patrick is rightfully bewildered by litterbugs. About 4 hours a month he goes to his adopted locations to pick up trash. He's been doing this for years, because doing so is truly a part of his identity.
With noticeable talent, Patrick moved to New York City in the early 90s to pursue a singing career. Working diligently, he eventually landed the highly coveted dream gig of singing background vocals with Mariah Carey for 3 years. When he moved back home to Jacksonville, he planted and rooted himself firmly in the music scene. Patrick has written and recorded 7 albums, a feat alone that sets him in an elite club amongst local musicians. He's performed with numerous polished bands, becoming a fabulous internet search worthy of your time.
Consequently, as with any artist or do-gooder, there's a spiritual element that guides Patrick.
Fondly, the conversation turns to the spiritual. Patrick and Chelleby nostalgically recalled memories of when they, along with a couple of other artists (Clark Creamer and Overstreet DuCasse) were roomates sharing their spiritual journey together. Patrick declares, "I consider myself a child of God and a citizen of the universe, an Earthling; I love that position. Which means, I'm learning the act of being patient, more honest, which brings me to what I like to do, which is cleaning up...which is...participating in taking care of this earth and our neighborhood and what we do together. Ya know? I don't like seeing garbage everywhere... everybody's got a job. Some people, during a hurricane... help pull bodies out of the water, or help rebuild. I don't feel like that's my position. I feel like it's my position to clean up, to get trash off the corner, to get trash off the streets. I feel amazing when I see what I've done after I've seen what it was before I got there. 'Wow! I did that!' It's like a totally different block. I love that!"
It's that simple and yet that complex. Adding to the beauty of his surroundings isn't just an enjoyment, for Patrick, its fundamental.
His work hasn't gone unnoticed. Patrick has been recognized and awarded by former Mayor Peyton. Subsequently, he receives trash bags and gloves from "Clean it up, Green it up". Bike riding gets the credit for his motivation to clean, as he's a diehard cyclist. Reflecting on all the trash he saw, Patrick's response is a rhetorical thought that should permeates us all. "You know, you have got to do something. This could be your park. You know you love singing. You know you love music. Add something for the universe's sake besides just singing." He took a gamble, laid down the stigma of being considered homeless, and just begin picking up trash. He laughs that some people have given him money, making assumptions for the reason he's picking up trash, but Patrick is undeterred. He's leaving his mark, by erasing the marks others leave behind.
For more information on "Clean it up, Green it up" visit: www.coj.net/departments/regulatory-compliance/clean-it-up,-green-it-up.aspx
photographs by Chelleby Starr
text by Jessica Nelson
Chelleby Starr and Jessica Nelson have partnered in a photo-journalism effort, highlighting humanitarian and social do-gooders. We believe that positive deeds have a ripple effect and bringing these stories to light can inspire, hopefully creating the change we desire all around us. Inspiration Station needs your stories. If you, or someone you know, would like to share your efforts in impacting our community for the better, please contact us via Facebook. Deepest gratitude for perpetually demonstrating a friendly gesture.