Dinner and a message


About 50 Childs Elementary School boys and their parents enjoyed a formal, catered, sit-down dinner accompanied by a positive message May 25 at the Peace Not Guns Mentoring Banquet.

Held 6 to 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of the school at 17th and Tasker streets, the event was hosted by Peace Not Guns founder and Childs alum Kenyatta Johnson of Point Breeze. Eatable Delights, 23rd Street and Ridge Avenue, catered the feast of salad, roast beef, barbecued chicken, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, collard greens, bread and rolls, fruit punch, poundcake and cookies.

"We wanted to make it like a Le Bec-Fin in the ‘hood," the 33-year-old Johnson said with a laugh.

Guest speakers included Dr. Keith Leaphart, a third-year resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and founder of Rainmakers Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to forge alliances with African-American professionals; state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, for whom Johnson has worked the last four years as a public safety and community-outreach liaison; Chad Lassister, president of the Black Men of Penn School of Social Work Inc.; and Dimetrious Morris, a 13-year-old junior drag racer. Entertainment was provided by God’s House, who performed an antiviolence play, and Peace Not Guns member and artist Mike Tabon, who paid tribute in poem and song to the city’s young murder victims. Tabon recently completed the Rest In Peace mural in North Philadelphia on Hunting Park Avenue between 19th and 20th streets that incorporated the names of children and teens slain last year.

"The banquet focused on the importance of African-American role models in saving our youth from the perils of street life and gun violence," Johnson said.

For him, the evening was a way to give back to his former educational stomping ground while doing something positive for young men, he said.

Though Johnson and Childs Principal Alphonso Evans have worked together in the past — most recently in September when the former donated school supplies and bookbags — this was the first banquet. Students who attended were selected by Evans, the activist said.

After losing a cousin and several friends to bullets in South Philly in the late 1990s, Johnson founded Peace Not Guns, a community-outreach and antiviolence initiative.

The banquet received financial donations from Williams, the Philadelphia Anti-Drug Anti-Violence Network, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and various community supporters.