Wynwood wouldn’t work. And a hip-hip concert in Bayfront would defeat his purpose.
No, radio personality Papa Keith was determined to host his first People Matter Fest straight out of Liberty City.
“I wanted to go into the toughest neighborhoods to the people who feel like they have nothing going for them and express to them that ‘Hey, you matter,'” he said.
The People Matter Fest will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Athalie Range Park in Liberty City. But coordinating the event, which was supposed to feature Liberty City native Trick Daddy and other South Florida rappers, has proven difficult for the 103.5 The Beat host Papa Keith, who said he had conflicts with local residents and City of Miami police.
CHANGE IN LOCATION
First, the location was a problem. The People Matter Fest was originally slated to take place at Charles Hadley Park, a quiet facility at 1300 NW 50th St. But Papa Keith, whose real name is Keith Walcott, said members of the Hadley Park Neighborhood Association had little interest in his hip-hop concert.
“The homeowners association didn’t want us there,” Papa Keith said. “They didn’t want ‘angry black men’ at their park. They pretty much said it was for senior citizens.”
Hadley Park’s neighboring community does consist of a vocal group of retired homeowners, but HPNA president Sam Latimore said safety was a primary concern.
Residents in the community felt the impact limited parking could have when children played organized football at the Park. Latimore said HPNA didn’t want to be trapped on their streets when Papa Keith brought the crowds so close to home. They wanted to know if the radio host had a solution to traffic congestion and crowd control.
And there was another question, Latimore said.
“Who gave him the authority or the foresight to see that Liberty City needed this?” Latimore said. “We didn’t call him to say ‘Papa Keith, we need you in Liberty City.’ So he got this vision, and I appreciate the vision, but the vision — every vision that you have doesn’t fit the place where you want to have it.”
Looking to avoid the mounting pressure from the homeowners association, Papa Keith agreed to relocate the People Matter Fest to Athalie Range Park at 525 NW 62nd St.
Radio spots broadcast the change in location. Not everyone shared the opinions of the HPNA: Residents expressed excitement at pop ups that Papa Keith hosted throughout the month of May at different housing projects in Liberty City. One man, seen in a video on the festival’s Facebook page, said he’d like to see the inner city receive more support “from the the people who are [on the] outside.”
We asked real people how to improve inner city communities because you matter. June 17 @pk4pm and @1035thebeat are bringing a free concert & festival to Liberty City. Follow @peoplematterfest for more info. #peoplematterfest #pk4pm #libertycity #youmatter
Posted by People Matter Fest on Tuesday, May 16, 2017
By most accounts, Papa Keith could be considered an outsider. The emcee was raised in Brooklyn, New York and lives in Pembroke Pines, far from Miami’s poorest neighborhoods. The People Matter Fest is an opportunity to acknowledge the value of communities that feel neglected, he said.
“The People Matter Fest is just that,” Papa Keith said. “I feel like there are people who feel their lives don’t matter, and I’m dealing with those people.”
Even Latimore, who challenged Papa Keith’s efforts, called the host’s intentions “noble.”
Then promotion of the musical acts stopped and the concert-turned-festival’s hours were cut by two hours from the original 1 to 8 p.m. Behind the scenes Papa Keith said he was catching flak from the Miami Police Department.
Janey Tate, an event organizer with the People Matter Fest, said the team had support from city commissioners Keon Hardemon of District 5 and Francis Suarez of District 4, but that didn’t stop other detractors.
“The commissioners and all the elected officials in that area have been very supportive and gave us their blessing,” she said. “It was just unfortunate that some of the residents and some of the police didn’t see our vision for this event.”
For some, the idea of a large event in Liberty City brought back memories of the Martin Luther King Day shooting. On Jan. 16, 2017, eight people were shot and others injured in a stampede that began at Memorial Park, 6000 NW 32nd Ct. The mantra of the day, “Bikes up, Guns down,” had fallen short on a day meant to commemorate a champion of peace.
“None of the police officers wanted us in any park, period,” Papa Keith said. “Trying to do something good has been a mission. Their concern is with youth and violence, violence, violence.”
A major component of the People Matter Fest is a 24-hour cease-fire, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. The Miami Police Department declined to comment regarding officers’ alleged concerns with the festival, but Lt. Freddie Cruz said the police are taking the safety of attendees seriously.
“There are going to be police personnel assigned to that park. As always, we’re hoping for peace and a safe outcome,” Cruz said.
Latimore, a longtime resident of Liberty City, said he hopes the People Matter Fest is a success since gun violence impacts the entire neighborhood. If the cease-fire is ineffective and there are casualties, no one will make the distinction between Hadley or Range parks, Latimore said.
“It’s just going to be ‘Liberty City has another shooting,'” he said.
IF YOU GO
When: Saturday, June 17
Time: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Athalie Range Park, 525 NW 62nd St, Miami, FL 33150