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The corner of Lawndale and 16th street on Chicago’s West Side has been infamous for decades. Known as the birthplace of the notorious Vicelord’s gang, the corner has been a hub for gun violence and drug activity for over 50 years, but on Sunday, June 19, local fathers took the section back for the North Lawndale community.
North Lawndale-based non-profit organization Boxing Out Negativity brought positivity to the feared corner by hosting their second annual Juneteenth concert. This year Juneteenth fell on the same day as Father’s Day so fatherhood was a theme of discussion on the stage throughout the day. The celebration included a performance by local musical acts, a tribute to a North Lawndale youth who recently passed away, barbecue and nachos, a traditional West-African dance performance, and was hosted by comedian and lifelong North Lawndale resident Darrin “D” Brown. Many North Lawndale youth also were able to experience their first game truck where they played video games together.
One of the first artists to perform was rapper FMB Solo from North Lawndale. Solo’s performance was particularly emotional as he performed on Father’s Day in memory of his father, Davonne Reed, a fellow rapper who performed with him at last year’s show but was murdered two blocks away from the celebration site less than a year ago. Other artists who performed included fellow North Lawndale residents Max Julian, J Strings, Hot Boy, Darro Woods, and others.
The event’s host took time during an intermission to bring the family of recently deceased Jalon James up to the front of the crowd in order to pray and release balloons to commemorate his life. Sixteen-year-old James passed away in North Lawndale a couple of days earlier when he was struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident. Community leaders called out to the crowd to reach out and find information about the driver involved to seek justice for Jalon’s death.
Coach Derek Brown, president and founder of Boxing Out Negativity, addressed the crowd that numbered in the hundreds, speaking on being positive role models in order to help raise the next generation in the right direction, encouraging the people of North Lawndale to come together in order to take more ownership over what happens in their community, and the importance of celebrating and cherishing their African culture.
Brown also spoke on his past as a Vicelord from the area, and how he’s now dedicated his life to undoing the destruction he caused in his younger years. Brown informed the crowd of the inspiration behind the celebration, his mentor Coach Lattice “Baby” Bass, who began the tradition of throwing a 4th of July celebration in North Lawndale so that residents didn’t have to go downtown to see a firework show. After Bass’ passing, Brown picked up the torch and carried on the tradition, recently deciding to throw a large gathering on Juneteenth rather than the fourth of July in acknowledgment that Black American slaves did not receive their freedom until many years after America’s original Independence Day.
Community organizations and businesses that assisted Boxing Out Negativity in making the event possible included Firehouse Community Arts Center, Renegades for Life, and Del-Kar Pharmacy. The event was one of the largest gatherings organized by solely North Lawndale residents in recent years and provided a moment of peace in the North Lawndale Community. No violence occurred at the celebration and no shootings happened in the neighborhood while the event took place. The event instilled hope in residents of North Lawndale, seeing that it’s possible to come together as one and usher in sustainable moments of peace in an area that needs them.
Written by Justin Connor
Edited by Sheena Robertson
Boxing Out Negativity Juneteenth Celebration: 6/19/2022
Images Courtesy of Justin Connor