Festival organizers work to spread anti-violence message

Published: Mar. 28, 2019 at 5:39 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Two men are working to stop the violence, starting in their own community and hoping to spread the message nationwide.

The Azalea Stop the Violence Festival, scheduled for April 6 at the MLK Center in Wilmington, plans to bring the community together to raise awareness and bring gun violence to an end. Festival creators Marcus Lacewell and Robert McNeal say they are trying to stop the violence in all areas, not just one community.

“We realize that violence is stopping what history is trying to build,” said Lacewell.

Their goal is to keep young people busy so they’ll avoid the traps of gun violence.

“We want to encourage them that we do care, and we are working on making this successful for them, to put the guns down," McNeal said. "You’ve got all types of violence out there, and we want to send out a positive message throughout all the communities.”

Yolanda Hayes plans to speak at the event on April 6. Her son, Zalleux “ZJ” Johnson, was fatally shot at a basketball court in the Creekwood Community on Feb. 21.

Yolanda Hayes, mother of Zalleux Johnson's who was fatally shot in February.
Yolanda Hayes, mother of Zalleux Johnson's who was fatally shot in February.(WECT)

Hayes said the community needs to give youth more things to do or else they’ll find themselves in violent situations.

“What are we doing as a community? I hate to say it but as our race, what are we doing?" Hayes said. "We have to stand up. We have to give these kids more things to do because right now, it’s like the wild west out here. They’re around here with guns. It can take a life. Once you take a life, it never comes back.”

The festival will include kids’ face painting, a bounce house, three-legged races, horseshoes and food. There will also be food, T-shirt sales, cornhole and other games for kids, as well as opportunities for people to learn how to improve their economic status.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.