By Floyd Alvin Galloway
October 16, 1995 made a difference in the lives of many Black men in America. One person who had a life changing experience was Phoenix resident Thurman Stewart.
On that day Stewart stood with over a million Black men on the United States Capital lawn in Washington D.C., to participate in the historic Million Man March. From that experience he wanted to do something in his home state to promote peace.
“I was so inspired by the Million Man March. You had over a million Black Brothers gathered in one area. There was no crime, no violence, no arguing. It was all peaceful and motivating,” said Stewart.
From that event Stewart got the idea to start the Peace Fest in Phoenix. This year marked the 12th annual event, which featured speeches from community leaders, dancing, poetry, rappers, singers, vendors selling food, clothing and providing pertinent information on health awareness and community issues.
Founded in April of 1999, the attendance from the event has steadily grown from 500 to 8,500 in that past 12 years. “We have not had one incident of violence since we started which proves our community desires unity and peace.”
The past year they had the highest attendance in the Peace Fest history of 8,500 people. The Peace Fest has become a household name.
The purpose of the “Stop the Violence” Peace Fest is to promote peace in our community and bring solutions to plaguing issues like gang violence, domestic violence, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. The Peace Fest creates an opportunity for young people to express their gifts and talents through Edutainment.
The warm sunny day provided great weather for the family friendly event MC’d by Valley icon, Kim Koko Hunter. The event also featured several car and motorcycle clubs displaying their showcase vehicles. Angel “Missie” Graham showcasing her custom 2004 Lexus, is a member of Nocturnal Car Club “Wolfpack” got involved in the car club through her husband. “My husband has been in car club over 20 years, so I got involved and really enjoy it.” When she got involved there weren’t many women involved. A pioneer she thrived on the excitement of the events, winning trophies.
Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Oakland resident that was killed by a Transit Officer, thanked the community for supporting the family and the movie Fruitvale Station, which was based on Grant’s life.
Johnson noted Black men as father’s, uncles, brothers have a responsibility to their families, protecting them, sheltering them and advocating them. Johnson has traveled across the country advocating for justice the Black community and a change in the mind-set of those controlling the justice system.
Min. Nuri Muhammad, from Indianapolis, the Nation of Islam Student Minister, noted the dedication Thurman and Dorrana Stewart have made to provide a quality event, free of violence, safe for the family.
Dr. Warren Stewart, no relation to the organizers, spoke to the crowd regarding the importance of upcoming run-off election between him and his opponent Kate Gallego. Stewart, pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix is perceived to be the underdog in the race had been a fixture in the community of over 30 years addressing community needs.
“I didn’t just move into District 8 a few months ago like my opponent. I’ve been working and living here for over 30 years, working to make this a better place.”