By Atiya Irvin-Mitchell
Pittsburgh Current Contributing writer
In Hawkins Village, on June 19 amid the threat of rain through collaboration the Hill District Consensus Group, the Wellness Collective, Feed the Hood, Confluence Catering and Antwon Rose Foundation marked the two year anniversary of 17-year-old Antwon Rose’s death by distributing 500 hundred meals to the neighborhood where the teenager once lived.
“Feed the hood just does this,” Carlos Thomas, founder of Feed the Hood, explained. “This is kinda what we do and just on that day that you know regrettably Antwon Rose was murdered it felt like we should keep the momentum going. It’s also Juneteenth so there’s a celebration behind that too.”
The event, which took place in the center of Hawkins Village, held a steady flow of attendees, was put together through volunteer labor. Some organizations donated produce, others tee shirts, while Feed the Hood took care of preparing the meals. It was one of several events held on this day to honor Rose’s memory
Previously, Rose had been a part of a group of local kids Thomas helped take to Duquesne University to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King and later to lobby against legislation allowing armed guards in school.
“Everything has gone great,” Thomas said. “We’re having a good time. Miss Michelle [Rose’s mother] is happy. Antwon’s here, you can feel him here.”
Reginald Hudson, the executive chief of the Feed the Hood Initiative, told the Current that he credits how smoothly the event ran with a desire for unity in the wake of police killings and the protests that have followed.
“It’s at a point now where I think we realize there’s no choice but to make a stand,” he said. “Everyone’s not willing to fight, but just to come together and show the unity. We have a few different organizations here. This is all stuff that people were asked to do, no one is being compensated.”
While the music played and meals were handed out, the organizers reported being happy with the end result. Although Hudson recalled encountering some initial resistance from law enforcement.
“This is an awesome turnout,” Hudson said. “We did get a little resistance from the police in the beginning, as far as coming down here. But they ended up escorting us most of the way to make sure we got down here safely. I feel like everything turned out pretty well.”
The idea was brought to Thomas by Shannon Williams, founder of the newly created Wellness Collective. When the pandemic pushed already vulnerable families to increasing instability Wiliams’s organization started working to help get families what they needed. While Feed the Hood started preparing meals, the Wellness Collective opted for a delivery hotline. Working together, seemed the most efficient course of action.
“We started delivering their meals to people who couldn’t physically get to them,” Williams said.
After a member of the collective informed Williams that Michelle Kinney, Rose’s mother, was concerned about food insecurity in Hawkins Village, Williams took the idea for a tour to Thomas.
“That’s where she’s [Kinney] from and she was concerned because she was a food resource when she lived there,”Williams explained. “Now that she doesn’t live here anymore she was concerned that people wouldn’t have food access anymore.”
In addition to dinner and dessert, during the event the organizers signed up interested attendees for resources such as food pantries and organizations that assist with rent and utilities. Earlier in the day, attendees held a balloon launch and march in Rose’s honor. (Photos above and on opposite page by Jake Mysliwczyk.)
While Williams like other organizers was pleased with the unity she saw and the overall tone of the event remained upbeat, Williams stressed that ultimately for both the community and Rose’s family the feelings of grief would likely always linger.
“Time has passed, it’s the second year Antwon’s been gone, but it’s still June 18, 2018 for Miss Michelle and our community,” she said. “It didn’t change, we’re not past this death especially since there was no justice.”
Photos from a balloon release/protest in East Pittsburgh on June 19: