Special to South Florida Times
Children who turned out for a back-to-school event at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Carol City got more than just school supplies.
They also took part in a revival and got a big dose of inspirational talk from several Gospel artists, including a former gang member.
Vincent McGill, the artist known as Kyros, an ex-felon and former highly ranked Latin Kings Gang member, said he turned out to support the event because he wished someone had done the same thing for him.
“I have children myself and we have to break the generational curse so our children don’t have to go through what we went through,” said McGill, who is originally from Brooklyn but lives in Hialeah. “I spent so many years doing things that hurt people that now I do what I do for God’s glory, never mine.”
Antioch was picked for the only location this year of the “Back to School Stop the Violence Youth Empowerment Tour, now in its twelfth year and originally started in Los Angeles.
“The kids go through so many things that parents don’t even know about. It’s a matter of exposing what those issues are and empowering the youth to overcome them,” said Andrea Wilson, president of RKD Music Management who co-produces the tour along with Dorean Edwards, executive director of Palace of Care and Goodwill Inc.
Wilson said they picked the Miami Gardens church for the stop because Antioch was receptive to their vision.
“I have a friend who told me about Antioch when we were planning to go on the road so I called them. They saw the need and were one of the first churches to step up,” Wilson said.
The Aug. 20-21 event included a youth revival, an all-day conference, a gospel concert and school supplies giveaway, along with celebrity appearances.
At the youth revival Aug. 20, Pastor Daron Dixon of The Well of Hope Church in Orlando urged the youth to make positive decisions.
“You must be careful because contrary acts can mess you up,” Dixon said.
A concert the next day was hosted by Power 96 DJ Alex "Big Lip Bandit" Chisolm, motivational speaker Diana Bien-Aime and Antioch Youth Minister Wilson Pascal.
In addition to Kyros, the tour drew Gospel artists such as The Ambassador, Holy Boy, Revealed Truth, God’s Baby Girl, and The Other Side.
William Branch, whose stage name is The Ambassador, a pioneer of Holy Hip-Hop, said he traveled from Philadelphia to Miami for the event because he never turns down a ministry opportunity.
“I live my life as a servant of Christ, but what I do fits into many different spheres, like non-violence, encouraging youth, worship and evangelism. I try to make sure that I’m not neglecting any sphere where I will be of some use,” he said.
Special appearances were also made by Slip-N-Slide Records CEO Ted Lucas, former New York Giants football player Michael Jennings, state Sen. Frederica S. Wilson and Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson, both of whom were candidates for Congress in Tuesday’s primary election.
Wilson said she was tired of burying young black boys and that other organizations should follow Antioch’s example.
“What’s happening here tonight is probably the most important thing happening in Miami-Dade County,” said Wilson. “Every church and organization should try and replicate something like this because all of our children need us to wrap our arms around them. It takes an entire village and we are that village.”