The children who enjoyed a sunny day Saturday at Akron’s Joy Park picking up backpacks and other school equipment at the Fourth Annual Peace Day probably had no idea how the event got started in 2010.
For Mayceo Smith, the inspiration for creating the event in 2010 brings painful memories.
“The reason we started was my brother-in-law was a victim of gun violence,” said Smith, now pastor of City of Joy Life Enrichment Center. “He went to a friend’s place and the friend got robbed and they shot the place up and he’s the only one that died. He didn’t even know them. Me and my wife were pretty shook up.”
As Smith grappled with his anger, he decided to “funnel it in the right direction.”
So he founded Unity in the Community of Akron and established the first Peace Day about four months after the shooting of J’suan Slayton.
As the children were picking up their supplies at the fourth Peace Day, rappers and speakers were sending a message of peace.
Smith remembered the great times and direction he got from the Boys and Girls Clubs in Akron as a youth and knew his reaction to the shooting had to be helping children.
“We saw the guy who did [the shooting] and he had a tough background, a rough lifestyle,” Smith said. “So I figured maybe if we can get some kids connected to some positive organizations, they might not go down that road.”
In addition to City of Joy, he enlisted the help of area churches including Burning Bush, First Apostolic Faith and BALM, also known as Becoming a Light Ministries.
This year, Huntington Bank paid for 100 of the 403 backpacks given away.
The total operation had a $4,000 budget, he said.
“We want the city of Akron to know there are still good people out there,” Smith said. “There are probably more good people. It’s just the bad people get all the press.”
Also on hand was the Akron Fire Department with a truck to let kids see what’s inside and sit in the driver’s seat, political candidates and social service agencies.
Bride of Christ Ministries made a presentation. The Akron organization is seeking $10,000 to finance a well for the people of Jinja, Uganda, a city about the size of Akron. On its table was an container of dirty water representing what that Africans are drinking now. The group can be reached at http://www.brideofchristinternational.org.
The Growing Patch, a preschool in West Akron, was handing out school supplies and promoting the idea of better preschool education. “We want our kids to grow up as our next leaders,” said Angela Whorton, an instructor.
But Elisha Swanson, co-director of the event, said the emphasis remained on peace.
“We can declare peace in our neighborhood,” she said. “We want them to think before they react. Don’t let a split-second decision turn into a life long of regret such as shooting someone.”
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or email@example.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.