The Hood—Stop the Violence rally was a peaceful, entertaining and uplifting event that felt like a family reunion. The message of stopping the violence was loud and clear throughout the whole day and the Thomas family wants everyone to take that message home every day, not just for one day out of the year.
This was the 10th annual rally Loaf and Cynthia Thomas have sponsored and hosted every September 11 in response to the attack on America and the senseless acts of violence that occur in the Hill District and other “hoods” in the city of Pittsburgh and throughout the country.
|FAMILY—The Thomas family, above, came together to hold their 10th annual The Hood—Stop the Violence rally. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)
“We have a one granddaughter and have lived in the Hill District since we’ve been married and we are always willing and trying to find ways to make it a great place to live, work and party,” said Loaf Thomas.
In September of 2011 there were 12 murders in a three block area around Bedford Avenue in the Hill District and the problem needed to be addressed. The Thomas family decided to hold a rally for several reasons. The first was to remember all of the victims and to network and talk about finding solutions to this out of control epidemic of senseless murders.
At this year’s rally the Smooth Groove Band headlined and hip-hop artist Ikey Bubz performed for screaming fans. The Thomas’ also gave awards of appreciation to the late Elbert Gray, Police Chief Nate Harper and Ashley G. Woodson of Brotha Ash Productions for their commitment and dedication to the stopping the violence in the community.
“Another reason for the rally every year is to have that same three block area come together for a day of peace, knowing that if we can do it for a day, then maybe it will continue on for a week, a month and years to come. That has not happened yet and that is why we continue to have the rally and we will continue to have it until the violence stop,” said Cynthia Thomas.
“The third reason for the rally is for us to give back to the community and to let the young kids see and hear that there are other choices other than violence,” said Loaf Thomas.
The rally provides an evening of free food, pop, speakers, prayers, rappers, dancers, give aways, contest and live band to end the event each year. Music fills the air, not gun shots.
“Has the rally stopped the violence? No, of course not. It is going to take much more than rallys, vigils, prayers, candles, t-shirts, bill boards, after school program, police, committees, begging, a women’s walk or a comedy show to stop the cycle of pure stupidity and ignorance. Good people will try anything to get the message to stop the violence,” said Cynthia Thomas.
The Thomas’ express that if young girls would stop having babies before they can take care of them, if guns stop being as easy to purchase as candy, if men started taking their neighborhoods back instead of choosing to have a blind eye or a deaf ear, that things would get better. Witnesses need to show up and speak up and everyone needs to be outraged and not accept what is going on in our communities.
“There are other issues that need to be addressed to stop the violence and I am willing to share my ideas with any interested parties. It is a complicated problem but it is solvable if enough of us care to do what it will take to make it happen,” said Loaf Thomas.
“The main reason behind all of the violence is drugs. The drug game has been played out since the beginning of time. The difference between the past and the present is that the kids are now selling drugs because they think that is the fastest way to make big money. They are lost, ignorant, selfish, and disrespectful and they don’t think. Most of the kids are this way because it started in the home and they are killing each other over pennies, not millions,” said Cynthia Thomas.
Cynthia Thomas was born in East Liberty and raised in Wilkinsburg. Robert “Loaf” Thomas was born and raised in the Hill District. They have been married for 31 years and have two adult children.