Dy-Shawn Simpkins and his wife, Deborah, turn the tragic killing of their son, Dy-Shawn Simpkins, Jr. into a movement to bring peace to East Orange, NJ
Dy-Shawn Simpkins aka Deacon Don DyDy sat down with Kizzy Cox and Onika McLean, the hosts of What’s The 411, to talk about his Love and Not Hate Movement.
Long before the tragic murders that shattered their peace occurred, Deborah and Dy-Shawn Simpkins were committed to providing kids with alternatives to street violence. The New Jersey couple’s after-school programs and day care centers have created safe havens for over 650 Irvington kids annually for the last nine years alone. Meanwhile, their community outreach has been active in the region for over 15 years.
Despite such passionate devotion, the nation's violence has grown exponentially, and East Orange, like other urban centers that have fallen victim to violence. This was never more apparent to the couple than when their own son, Dy-Shawn Simpkins Jr., 18, along with their nephew Kee-Ayre Griffin, 29, were killed in a triple shooting in East Orange. The senseless murders interrupted the promising lives of Simpkins, Jr—with his athletic career at Norfolk State University (NSU); and Griffin—a former student-athlete at Temple University where he played football after attending Saint Peter's Prep.
In dealing with the hateful killings, it was the community’s support that showed the couple the tools to fight the trauma, such as when the entire NSU football team arrived to join in a massive outpouring of love at Simpkins Jr’s funeral.
The outpouring of love for Simpkins and family and for their community continued with the Love and Not Hate March & Movement on Saturday, August 12, 2017, at 8:00 a.m., in East Orange, NJ. Organized by Simpkins’s own nonprofit of seven years, the GAP Program (Gang Alternative Program), and other nonprofits collectively known as Community United As One. The group, along with the title sponsor, East Orange City Council, used the march as a kickoff to an annual event that brings awareness to the gun violence epidemic with an aim to ending this scourge on the community.
The Reverend Al Sharpton led a lineup of pastors and political luminaries including Sheila Oliver, candidate for Lieutenant Governor for New Jersey, and rap icon Vin Rock aka Uncle Vinnie from the Grammy award-winning hip-hop trio Naughty by Nature.
The Reverend Al Sharpton (center) with Dy-Shawn Simpkins on the far right.
Sheila Oliver, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, giving Dy-Shawn Simpkins aka Deacon Don DyDy a heartfelt embrace
Sheila Oliver, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, on stage with Vin Rock from Naughty by Nature looking on.
Following the march and speakers, Dy-Shawn Simpkins, Sr. performed the song, “Seeds in the Field” that he recorded with his son before the tragedy. The event included other performers and turned into a real family day with music, food, youth activities, vendors, sports, back to school giveaways and more.
To contact Dy-Shawn Simpkins for more information about, and to help support, the Love and Not Hate Movement in East Orange, go to his website, www.DeaconDonDyDy.com, and Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/deacondondydy.simpkins