For three years, local rapper Flo Rida has hosted a gospel concert and youth event to give something back to the South Florida community that gave him his start.
On Friday night, the event took on a new purpose as organizers hosted a prayer vigil to honor two slain youths and their parents: 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who grew up not far from the Miami Gardens event, and was killed by a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, and 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot to death on Aug. 9 by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., setting off a chain of events that has led to recurring unrest and a renewed dialogue on race and policing.
In addition to his music career, Flo Rida also sponsors a youth football team, the Bull Dogs, for which Trayvon Martin once played, the Strong Elite track team, and oversees a youth charity called Big Dreams for Kids Charity. The annual Gospel Explosion Concert, said his manager, who goes by the name Freezy, is part of Flo Rida’s commitment to helping area youngsters avoid violence.
Having lived through the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Freezy said, the events in Ferguson seemed “close to home.” A message from Friday night’s concert, he added, was that “there is a better way than rioting and looting, and that kids need to put God in the mix.”
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The concert included a prayer vigil with Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s parents, and Michael Brown Sr., Michael Brown’s father. “We wanted to bring the family together, and embrace the community,” Freezy said.
On Monday, a grand jury chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s death, sparking protests and some violence in Ferguson — and a series of related protests throughout the U.S., including a mostly peaceful demonstration at Miami’s criminal courthouse.
“There’s really nothing you can say,” Fulton said, according to CBS-Miami. “Time is going to heal the wound. But I think what we can just do it just encourage them and tell them that they’ll be able to make it because it is very difficult.”
The event Friday, at the Betty Ferguson Recreational Complex in Miami Gardens, included a host of performances from well-known gospel and pop artists, including Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams, Casy J, Ruth La Ontra, Sunday Best Winner Le Andria Johnson and Stay C & Tyler Medeiros.