Beltzhoover festival helps unify community after loss

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A trip through McKinley Park during the sixth Annual My Brother’s Keeper Unity Celebration in Beltzhoover, revealed a community of women torn apart by the loss of their sons. Among them was Debra Germany who lost her son Raymond Germany in July 2001 when he was 23 years old.

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FAMILY TIES— Sharon Daniels, middle, stands with, from left, Leslie Jones, Anne Brown, Maria Griffy and Melanie Jones, family members of the deceased Clayton Thompson.

“My son made $1,000 a day selling drugs, but it cost him a bullet in the head,” said Germany, executive director of Divine Intervention Ministries. “My son was murdered because he decided to sell drugs for a living.”

Germany recounted the day she received the phone call telling her her son had been killed and her experience when she went to identify him at the hospital.

“Where are his friends?” Germany said she remembers asking. “Not one of them felt enough to ride with him in the ambulance. His friends let him down.”

“My son was always in trouble, always getting into something,” she said. “No matter what a good example I set, he still took left turns.”

From this tragedy, Germany created DIM, an organization that provides job training and support services to formerly incarcerated adults and at-risk youth.

“If your life was suddenly taken, how would it affect your family? We all play significant roles in our family unit,” Germany said. “I need each and every one of you out here to make it.”

Though the event was filled with activities for children and musical entertainment for all, many people said speakers like Germany gave the day a higher purpose.

Sharon Daniels, who founded MBK in 2001 after the death of her son, led a memorial for everyone who had lost someone. Each participant wrote the name of their loved one on a balloon and together they released them into the air.

“We’re letting them go so we can replace that—that anger —replace it with love,” Daniels said. “Only God could take tragedy and turn it into triumph.”

MBK is nonprofit organization that runs a reentry, reunification transitional living facility for people who have recently completed drug rehabilitation or have been released from jail. Tenants are offered employment in MBK’s construction and catering companies.

MBK also runs a construction-training program for youths 14 to 18. Under the supervision of construction professionals, the young people work to rehabilitate homes for low-income households at a reduced cost.

This year’s festival was dedicated to the memory of Clayton Thompson who died in October 2008. Daniel Harris, Dumeir Shariff Walker, Charlie Daniels, Wendell Wade and Robert Holmes were some of the other men remembered at the festival.

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