Young African-Americans in Pittsburgh are dying at an alarming rate from gun violence in our communities. Soul’d Out Productions and Divine Intervention Ministries teamed up to set the stage for an anti-violence initiative by creating a production called “The Company You Keep” and by having award ceremonies at CAPA High School in Downtown Pittsburgh, to let the families of the victims know they are not forgotten.

PROUD SPONSORS—Aleisha Parker of Soul’D Out Productions, Parrish Davenport of Soul’D Out Productions and Debra Germany of Divine Intervention Ministries. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)

Divine Intervention Ministries and Soul’d Out Productions hosted a weekend entitled “Let’s Stop the Violence.” Each event focused on the anti-violence theme. Other weekend activities included a candlelight vigil and a Service of Remembrance for those who have been affected by violence. They came together for an hour of healing and restoration and the play followed shortly afterwards.

In the audience were mothers who lost a love one due to violence and at-risk youth who may have participated in violent acts, or may have suffered from an act of violence. The mission was to unite as one city making a declaration to stop the violence. The weekend also shined a light of recognition on individuals whose contributions made a difference in the lives of the Pittsburgh residents. Debra Germany selected to be the recipient of the 2010 Community Service Leadership Award.

“We are here to give a proclamation for this product and we need more plays to talk about how we can stop the violence,” said Ed Gainey, Community Development Specialist of the Mayor’s Office for the city of Pittsburgh. “We need to do something to stop this madness. We have three proclamations for three individuals Parrish Davenport, Debra Germany and Aleisha Parker.”

Germany lost her only child, Raymond Germany, due to a act of violence in 2001 and she has been on the road to helping others ever since with Divine Intervention Ministries.

“What brought me to the ministry nine years ago was when my son, Raymond Germany, was killed in the Hill District by being shot seven times. We started out with billboards and about five years ago we transitioned into a prison ministry. The Lord called on me to restore lives of incarcerated adults. With such a rash of violent killings in our community we wanted to reach out to our young people to be mindful of the company you keep. Your friends have a lot of influence and we wanted to inform them through arts and music that people are doing positive things instead of being caught up into violence. We had to reach out to the people who were affected by the violence to let them know that we care for them and that they are not alone in their pain. Also we wanted them to just come out and have a nice time in the Lord.”

Parrish Davenport wrote the play “The Company You Keep” and wrote and composed a few of the songs. He re-wrote the script to tie into what the subject matte was about, which was violence and restoration.

“The producer of Soul’d Out Productions, Aleisha Parker asked me to come on board to write a show for her last year and the end result is “The Company You Keep.” It took me seven days to write and it debuted in January of 2010. Aleisha told me that she wanted a concept of bad company corrupting good characters and that is all I had to work with at the time. The Lord gave me the script and we are here today with “The Company You Keep.”

Anything that I produce or write is always going to target the community. I love giving back to the community. I connected with Debra Germany and we were able to connect and make things happen. I just want someone to be inspired by the play,” said Davenport.

Parker is the Executive Producer of Soul’D Out Productions and she is also dedicated to changing the lives of youths and getting the message out to the public that violence is not a way of life and God is the only way.

“It was important for us to put on this production because people need to be aware of the company they keep. The debut was in January of 2010 for two shows and we brought it back again because we saw the need. When we wrote the script, we wrote a part about violence and how you can be forgiven. The families came this year saying, ‘Yes I’m hurt, but I’m still trying to make it.’ It was important to write this play because it is real life. Basically what we are trying to do with this production is bridge the gap. We go to church and say we love God, yet this is real. We still go to work and school and we must take a stand because if we don’t, who will? This production is a stand for hope and there is hope. We all are experiencing pain and there are a lot of times when we don’t understand the pain and hopefully this production can ease some of the pain,” said Parker.

Laneda DeVaughn also experienced a parent’s worst nightmare. Her daughter, Jayla Shanee Brown, was killed three years ago. The people shot and wounded her date and killed her in the process.

“The person my daughter was dating was supposed to be dropping her off to come home and instead they ended up going to a recording studio in Lawrenceville. It would have only taken him thirty seconds to bring her home from where they were at, but he decided to go to the studio instead. If he would have brought her home first, I feel that she would probably still be here today. Also, if she would have made a better decision on who she decided to date instead of dating a stranger, she might still be here as well.”

“It is important for me to be here because we need to start getting out and supporting each other. A lot of people do things in the community to stop the violence and the attendance is not good. As a parent, I need to be a part of things in the community that are catered towards stopping the violence in our communities.”

There is hope for our youth and young adults. Yes! There is hope in the community and stopping the violence. Yes! There is hope in God, and Soul’d Out Productions & Divine Intervention Ministries made it known throughout the memorable weekend.

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