Day of festival fun has bigger mission of ending Jacksonville violence, code of silence

Fun, games, giving away school supplies and providing food were all a part of the vision Deborah Riley-Harris had for a community festival in A. Philip Randolph Heritage Park on Sunday. But there was also a bigger mission: Stopping the violence in Duval County and ending the code of silence.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fun, games, giving away school supplies and providing food were all a part of the vision Deborah Riley-Harris had for a community festival in A. Philip Randolph Heritage Park on Sunday.

But there was also a bigger mission: Stopping the violence in Duval County and ending the code of silence.

“I am tired of seeing all of these senseless murders that are going on in Jacksonville,” Riley-Harris said. “It is time for the community to come together and put a stop to it. We want people to socialize. We want people to build a relationship with JSO. We want them to feel comfortable talking with the police.”

This is Riley-Harris’ first time hosting this sort of event.

She hopes it draws the community closer.

All the money raised is going to a charity called Families of Slain Children.

Beverly McClain established it back in 2006 when her son, Andre Johnson, was murdered in Jacksonville a year earlier. Jonson was found dead near Trout River. He was 28 years old.

McClain is still waiting for justice as her son’s killers still have not been arrested. McClain says she is not alone.

“People need help in more ways than one,” McClain said about helping families who lost loved ones. “That grieving process is something else and still is. I have my moments but I push through.”

According to our News4JAX records, there have been 96 homicides in Duval County so far in 2022. Those who put on this event say that is unacceptable.

“Children are dying, women are dying, young people are dying,” Riley-Harris said, who is also shedding light not only on gun violence, but domestic violence as well. “We have to come together and put a stop to it. It is heartbreaking.”

Families of Slain Children provides resources including grief counselors, support meetings and therapy to help children who experience trauma.

“It is a deep, deep cut,” McClain said of dealing with her son’s death. “I will never forget my wound is deep. But God healed me and that is what I wish and want for others.”


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