“Don’t worry about who is not here,” Folks said. “This is not a waste of time to me. Some people have come here the whole 12 years. If someone comes here again next year, we have saved somebody’s life.”
Folks, who is director of the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department and founder of Stop the Violence, was one of more than 30 people who attended the event at Zinn Park. The attendees — parents, Anniston High School students, members of the local Boys and Girls Club and city officials — listened to motivational speakers before marching from the park to the Carver Community Center.
Stop the Violence is hosted each year by the Parks and Recreation Department, the Anniston Housing Authority and the Calhoun County Commission. The goal of the event is to motivate residents to end violence in their neighborhoods.
“It seems like each year we do this, before or after, there is another senseless killing of another teenager,” said Frazier Burroughs, one of the event’s organizers. “But we know by doing this each year, we let the community know we are aware and that somebody cares. We’re doing what we do because we are trying to save a life.”
For local resident Tracy Heard, Saturday was her first time to attend the event.
“I think it is a great thing for the community,” she said. “I think the whole community should be out here.”
The main speaker at the event was Jeremiah Castille, a former University of Alabama football player under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and currently a minister. He is also founder of the Jeremiah Castille Foundation in Birmingham, a non-profit organization that promotes youth development.
Castille said he knows about violence firsthand, noting he had a brother who was murdered and that he grew up in a poor home with parents who were abusive and addicted to drugs and alcohol.
“But don’t let circumstances hold you down,” Castille said. “All it should do is elevate you.”
Despite his life growing up, Castille said he was able be successful by avoiding drugs and investing in himself by studying and practicing athletics.
“You’ve got to invest in you,” Castille told the students in the audience. “You don’t have to have a life like your parents have got. Stop waiting for a handout. Go get it.”
Contact staff writer Patrick McCreless at 256-235-3561.