COMMUNITY UNITY—Dina “Free” Blackwell and friend LaKeisha Wolf dance to African drummers during the House of Manna’s 7th annual Homewood March for Peace. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

The seventh annual Homewood March for Peace was filled with music, food, dancing and fellowship, just as its founder Rev. Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell envisioned. But the Good Friday (April 14) event was different this year—it was the first without Blackwell, who lost his battle with cancer in November.

But those who attended agreed that he was there in spirit.

“I’ve known “Free” (Dina Blackwell) for years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to come to the march,” said Lakeisha Wolf of Wilkinsburg. “It’s a wonderful time. People need to see each other, be together, feed each other, dance, sing. It’s a beautiful experience.”

Reverend Rodney Lyde, pastor at Baptist Temple Church in Homewood, has attended every year, and agreed with Wolf.

“It’s great that ‘Free’ has kept this going because it’s not about the march, it’s about people participating,” he said. “It reminds us what community is all about. We are demonstrating in this neighborhood and beyond that we are family, and we will see peace proliferate.”

Blackwell’s brother, Eric, who serves as an elder at the House of Manna church his brother founded with his wife seven years ago, said it brought back special memories.

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