FORT WAYNE – Within the first few hours of Saturdays Amnesty and Deliverance Festival, there had been a gospel music group and a few speakers on the slightly raised stage that was constructed on the grass near the north edge of McMillen Park. Spectators sat in long rows of folding chairs beneath a large tent while the strong August breeze kept everyone comfortable.
And although some of the several hundred in attendance still milled around, when it came time for Steven Trowell to take the stage, microphone in hand, wearing an orange shirt and dark shorts, many stopped, took a seat and listened.
He had come from Ames, Iowa, with his mother for the sole purpose of rapping at the third annual festival. And if anyone gave the message that the event hoped to convey, it was this 16-year-old who introduces himself as a positive rapper.
Its using music, and trying to change lives, Trowell said. Im not rappin about drugs and alcohol. I dont want teens to do that stuff. Im actually trying to change teens. Our generation today, man, its not what its supposed to be. Im just trying to make everything better.
Multicolored tents that were raised and tied down dotted the McMillen Park grounds. Kids stood in line to get balloon animals. There was an inflated jumpy house. Four basketball courts were filled with a hoops tournament. East Allen County Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools had tents with representatives. The banner in front of the NAACP tent read, Pick up a book, not a gun. The change is worth the challenge. Ice cream and hot dogs were in abundance.
The mission of this festival is to bring churches and information resources together to help people with their afflictions in life, festival founder Joe Ayers said. It could be drugs, alcohol, weight, cancer – any affliction in your life; loss of a loved one youre struggling with. Also the mission is to raise canned goods and non-perishable food for the Harvest Food Bank, and also to get gently used clothes and shoes and household goods for the Rescue Mission, for the needy in the community.
Also among the days events was a family against violence rally.
Its not only toward the killings, but its toward all of the abused, Ayers said, citing the citys recent gun violence. The elderly are abused, children are abused, domestic violence, environmental abuse. One of the biggest ones is education abuse, where there are young people walking around here who cant read or write. I think theres an abuse of situations, where we need to focus on educating our kids so they can have a successful life.
It sounded as though he, Trowell and so many others were sending the same message, just in different ways.
I know kids listen through music more than they listen to anything, Trowell said. If I can get them through music, which is something that everybody listens to, and have them actually grasp what youre talking about. Thats why youve got teens today smoking weed and drinking alcohol because they grasped what those other artists are talking about, and thats what theyre preaching. Im preaching something different. Im preaching positive things, as far as doing good in school, respecting your parents, respecting others. I want them to grasp that, and they can become better people, and just change the world.
I know every performance I do, it touches somebody. And they have a really close friend or a cousin or somebody theyre really cool with, and then they tell them about it, and they get touched by it, and it just goes on and on and on and on. I just try to touch as many people as I can.