Since its inception, anywhere hip-hop went, activism was never far behind. 103.5 The Beat’s host, Papa Keith, upholds this sentiment through his annual gun-violence awareness hip-hop festival, People Matter Fest [PMF]. Produced through his nonprofit Papa Keith 4 People Matter (PK4PM )Foundation, the free “world-class” hip-hop festival returns with fresh entertainment and an emboldened stance on the same powerful mission. Keith, a Brooklyn native, crafted the PM Fest initiative in 2017 with his team out of his love for hip-hop and the dire need to educate Miami-Dade inner-city youth about the perennial issue of gun violence. Today, the PMF is Liberty City’s first and only music festival – generating a crowd of over 5,000 attendees annually. The two-day event will be full of music, sports, family fun, and, most pivotal: advocacy. The county-acclaimed 24-hour ceasefire campaign, rallying Miami-Dade to refrain from gun use for the day, will start on March 17 and remain throughout the festival. The 24-Hour Cease Fire press conference is set for Friday, March 17, at noon at Gwen Cherry Park (7090 NW 22nd Ave, Miami, FL 33147). Attendees scheduled to speak include; Miami-Dade County Mayor -Daniella Levine, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Marlene Bastien-District 2, Alfred “Freddy” Ramirez-Miami-Dade County Police Department Director,Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall-Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board member District 2, HT Smith Esq.-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Gwen Cherry Park Foundation in Liberty City to name a few.
The official festival kicks off Friday, March 17, with a football and basketball tournament open to the public at Gwen Cherry Park. The football tournament will begin at 3 pm, and the basketball tournament will commence at 7 pm, marking the start of the 24-Hour Cease Fire Campaign.On Saturday, March 18, from 12noon-7 pm at Traz Powell Stadium(11380 NW 27th Ave, Miami, FL), a fun day for the entire community is planned.
“We suffer from a lot of unnecessary gun violence here in South Florida, so we definitely need the 24-hour ceasefire,” said Keith. “I don’t know if it’s luck, but the ceasefire is our biggest success story. We go directly into the communities with gun violence issues and ask them to respect the ceasefire to ensure a peaceful festival.”
“I am proud to partner with Papa Keith for the much-needed Cease Fire campaign at his signature People Matter Fest, which has proven to be a success year after year,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and sponsor of the event. “Miami-Dade now has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in any metro area in the country, and it’s thanks to innovative and successful violence prevention initiatives that our County government and community partners are implementing. We want all of our residents and visitors to feel safe and enjoy a wonderful day of music and fun without fear. This collaboration is a huge step towards safer communities for all,” says Daniella Levine Cava-Miami-Dade County Mayor.
“I am proud to support the People Matter Fest and PK4PM movement to positively shape the future of underserved communities. This annual event has been hosted in District 2, and I look forward to another wonderful event, with everyone in the community in attendance”, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Marlene Bastien.
“We believe that young people are the very essence of our future. The future of our nation lies in the hands of the next generation. I believe that if we want the best for our children and our nation, we need to empower and strengthen our youth. I believe that Papa Keith’s People Matter Fest is set to do just that. We need more awareness and education so we can lessen the crimes on our streets. Enough is enough, and we need to enforce the 24-hour ceasefire,” said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board member for District 2 and sponsor of the event.
“I work on a hip-hop radio station and love hip-hop music, but it gets a bad reputation,” Keith said. “My goal is to unite, suppress gun violence, and create a community using hip-hop and show that it’s not all bad – that we do good things in the community, for the community.”
Among these yearly attendees is Romania Dukes, founder of advocacy nonprofit Mothers Fighting for Justice. Her son De’Michael was only 18 when a stray bullet shot and killed him in 2014 – his killer has since not been identified. In the midst of grief, Dukes channeled her pain into being a source of light for other grieving mothers, birthing the nonprofit.
As an award-winning community activist who partners with the Miami-Dade Police Department and the State Attorney’s office, Dukes is notified of every gun-related homicide in the community. Not only does she receive an ample amount of these calls but “nine times out of ten,” Dukes says she knows the victim or their parents.
Reports from a gun violence prevention organization Everytown For Gun Safety, indicate that the use of firearms accounts for over 70 percent of homicides in Florida.
Through sponsorships such as Miami-Dade County, United Teachers of Dade, The Children’s Trust, Dunkin, and many more — the hip-hop festival will have community vendors, resource centers, and a “kid zone” with carnival rides, art activities, and giveaways.
“Hip-hop is my life, so to be able to bring community and hip-hop together in this way is very special to me,” Keith said.