One young life snuffed out too soon shocked a city.
One young life snuffed out too soon devastated a community.
But that one young life lives on in those who knew him, calling his friends and family to do more to fix the fissures that rip society apart and led to his death.
Two Kannapolis Middle School students answered that call.
As part of an eighth-grade class project, Braden White and Jordan Anthony decided to hold a community cookout Friday, April 21, at Veterans Park to talk about racism and gun violence.
“[The goal is] to stop racism and gun violence because one of my friends was shot,” Jordan said. “We want to honor him.”
Kannapolis Middle School student Anthony Frazier was shot and killed while visiting family in Charlotte in January. The news rocked the entire school family and the community at large and clearly spurred these two young men to action.
So when eighth-graders faced an assignment to research a topic they were passionate about and create a plan of action, they seized the opportunity. Braden settled on racism and Jordan on gun violence, combining forces to create the Love Your Neighbor Community Cookout idea.
“Some people in my class, in my school, sometimes can be racist to each other,” Braden said. “I want people to just get together and hang out.”
When the duo originally pitched the idea to their teacher, Steve Fulton, he was a little taken aback by the scope of the project.
“It was Braden’s idea,” Fulton said. “He said racism is, like, this really complex thing, but one thing I found is if people get to know each other and talk to each other as people, then things like race or class or politics—all those things that divide us—become much less of a thing because people see each other as people.
“So their big idea was we’re going to get all these people from everywhere together at this giant party that we’re going to host. And I was like, whoa, you guys are thinking really big. There’s a lot that’s going to go into this. But they seemed really committed.”
So Fulton decided to ride it out and see where things went. He helped the pair craft an email to the park about renting the facility—and 15 drafts later they hit send. Braden took to social media, creating a Facebook event and asking people for donations.
The event itself positively hopped with music and activity. A DJ set the tone with upbeat pop songs, and everything from outdoor board games to corn hole, from face painting to giant coloring pages kept people busy and laughing.
“Racism has been going on for years and years, and we need to stop it,” Jordan said. “We’re bringing all the people from around the community together and sitting them together with free food.”
Jordan and Braden said they hoped people who came out would take the time to talk to and really get to know each other, putting their differences aside.
“That was the idea behind it, that people need to be able to talk to each other and socialize with each other and so what better way to do that than create an event with food for free that invites people of all backgrounds and all interests together for just the purpose of spending time together and hanging out and having a god time?” Fulton said. “And also under the umbrella of remembering the friend who they lost this year.”
Braden and Jordan gathered a whole host of donated items to give away in an auction, and they plan to use that money to create a memorial to Anthony at the new middle school building that’s opening next year. They also designed T-shirts for the event complete with a heart surrounded by different colored hands—to show people coming together, Braden said—and the hashtag Antman, Anthony’s nickname, along the bottom.
“One thing I found is that eighth-graders, they’re really excited and passionate, and if they get ahold of an idea and I stay out of their way and just support them as they need it, they’re going to be able to accomplish far more than I initially thought they would be able to,” Fulton said. “That was the case in this one. Students are finding something important in the community and going out there and being active participants in making it better.”
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