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Shooting Deaths of Two Athletic Scholars Prompt 'Love & Not Hate March & Movement' F


Radical out-pour of love displayed within the community.

New Jersey couple, Deborah and Dy-Shawn Simpkins were activist in the community who

provided kids with alternative methods to street violence. For instance, they have after-school programs and day care centers. They’ve created a loving and safe environment for about 650 Irvington (NJ) kids running 9 years strong. It’s also noted that their community outreach has been active for 15 years.

Dy-Shawn said that he felt more empowered to get involved with the community because tragedy happens every day.

“My daughter, she had a boyfriend that was killed years ago, and we decided to create a safe environment and a safe haven for kids to attend after-school and mentoring programs.

We deal with sports and recreation so the kids can have somewhere to exercise, do their homework, and eat, while their parents are still at work; and they aren’t just out there in the streets.

Our programs were initially started years ago, because of gang and street violence,” he said.

"It’s much needed across the nation because everybody can relate to the youth dying young, and the kids not being mindful of the value of life. I want to be able to stand up to violence, and speak on this topic.”

Although the couple is deeply engaged with positive reinforcements against gang and gun violence, that didn’t stop them from feeling the wrath of this universal epidemic and experiencing sorrow of their own.

The horrific death of their son, Dy-Shawn Simpkins Jr. (Age 19), and nephew, Kee-Ayre Griffin (Age 29), tested their faith. They’ve daringly fought all these years to bring awareness to the community, by protecting the precious youth that reside within the city limits.

During one of the deadliest weekends in East Orange, New Jersey, the teens were murdered in a triple shooting, leaving both Deborah and Dy-Shawn searching for answers.

Simpkins Jr., attended Norfolk State University, where he was a defensive back on their football team. Griffin, a former student athlete at Temple University, is where he played football after attending Saint Peter's Prep.

“It’s hitting home too much and it’s impacting our youth. As for my son’s situation, he was visiting home from college, and got killed. He had a promising career and a promising future. It was predicated that he didn’t have to play football for the whole four-years. They would’ve drafted him within the first three-years because he had that much talent.

 Dy-Shawn Simpkins Jr (2016).

So, with the march, we are going to make a positive out of a negative and bring awareness for our community, and reeducate ourselves. We gotta show more love by valuing life, and stop reacting senselessly against one another.”

As Dy-Shawn shared, he started street-hustling when he was younger, so he’s very passionate about the development of the youth, because he’s been there and done more than most. It’s extremely important for him to not only be a voice, but ensue actions from others whether, religious, community or the faculties abroad.

“It starts with love, and we (as people) don’t know how to love each other. We hate by instinct, but we don’t know how to love each other, and God is love. That’s the core foundation and that’s why it’s called a Love and Not Hate March, because we are so untrustworthy with showing love and affection that we don’t know how to do it. In turn, we’d rather ask the opposite of love, in showing our hate and frustrations, but if you understand by design that you are my brother, you will always be my brother. Your behavior has to add up to you being my brother or my sister.”

The Simpkins have asked that everyone participate in the Love and Not Hate March and Movement, which is set to take place Saturday, August 12, 2017, starting at Hollywood Ave & Central East Orange (NJ), and ending at Oval Parks East Orange (NJ).

“With that said, it’s like an oxymoron to what happened to my son and my nephew. They were killed by gun violence within the community. This is like an outreach, and out-pour of support going on in my environment and in my community, which has propelled me to create this movement. It’s a Love and Not Hate Movement, to create unity within our community and with our youth, so we can come together and unite for a cause—to stop the violence and stop this killing.”

The ceasefire march is anticipated to be an all-day celebration in remembrance of the two young men.

“We are asking everyone to join with this love and join with this outcry and stand up to this violence within the community, and we have the whole half of New Jersey standing up. People are flying in to march with us, and it’s for a good cause."

Organizers of the march include Simpkins's nonprofit of seven years, the GAP Program (Gang Alternative Program). There will be a collective of other nonprofits such as Community United As One. The group, along with the title sponsor, East Orange City Council, will use the march as a kickoff to an annual event that brings awareness to the ongoing violence epidemic.

Dy-Shawn uses Deacon Don DyDy as pseudonym, so that he can reach the younger hip hop generation through divinely powerful music, which is how he’s able to culminate part of the march in a musical segment where he’s performing a song called, Seeds in the Field, The profound piece is a harmony that Dy-Shawn and his son recorded before the tragic heartbreak. 

A commanding lineup of pastors will support the movement with inspirational encouragement. Prayer facilitators include, Al Sharpton, Ted Green Council President and newly elected Mayor of East Orange, NJ, Reverend Timothy Huff, Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, and Pastor Jerry Smith.

While crime is on the rise all over, Dy-Shawn feels that positive press will help to shed light on people in the communities.

“I don’t think crime is downplayed—it’s promoted. That’s what you see on the news every day. You’re not going to see on the news that a young man helped an elderly woman across the street. They are not going to promote that. They are not going to show that, which is the right thing to do. They want to promote the negativity of what’s wrong and the negative situation even if the youth was in the right. They [the media] will make it appear that the youth was in the wrong. They will bring up a marijuana charge when he was 16, and that has nothing to do with him being shot and killed.”

Deacon Don DyDy with Al Sharpton

“We have to understand and make better decisions because the propaganda in the news, they learn to spin negative things on the youth, in a minority where they are already stereotyped.”

As a man and woman of faith, The Simpkins believe that God was testing them long before their son passed away prematurely.”

“Nobody wants this to happen. I don’t want this to happen to any parent, and the fact that I’m in a community, creating a safe-haven for not just my kids, but other people’s children. I treat them like I’m their uncle—I treat them like a father figure cause some of these kids don’t have a dad. I’m also a football coach; so, I mentor the kids, and I’m like the big uncle in the community and another father-figure in the community that they look up to as a role model.”

Dy-Shawn said that his wife grew up in Newark (NJ). She is a flourishing entrepreneur as well as a successful author. She holds a degree and she’s also a minister. “She’s a wise business person,” he admired.

“I grew up in East Orange (NJ). I was a talented athlete that made the wrong decisions gearing towards the streets. I was trying to be something I wasn’t, and I made bad decisions. I’ve been locked up before. I got incarcerated and studied the word of God and became a believer of faith. When I saw the light, He showed me the bad decisions that I made, and my great thinking is what got me locked up. I’m trying to combat thinking with the youth because they are thinking the same way.

Everybody that’s been locked up, they have the same relative story—a different environment, but the same relative story. It’s by default that we end up in these situation, and that’s all there is out there. Once we enlighten ourselves to understand the design for us to get locked up, the design for us to either be dead or doing life in prison, it’s to come out of that mental prison that we’re in—which is the environment of poverty and stricken situations that we’re growing up in every day.

I did my dirt or whatever the case may be, but glory to God, I got the word of God in my life together. He changed my mindset and my vision to see the light, the way, and a better path for myself and those that came along towards the same path in a way that I came up.”

The healing process is going to be a forever-process for the grieving dad; however, Dy-Shawn is suited in armor, while planning to fight on the behalf of his son and others who’ve sung a song of requiem.

“People are dying every day and they are getting killed by their brothers and sisters out here. We must do better in the community. Enough is enough. This is what the movement is about. This is what the Love & Not Hate is about, August 12, join with us, my family and the community, and help us stand-up against gun violence in our communities and the senseless killings of our youth.”

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