Tasha Nixon, a Pensacola native, grew up in Englewood Heights, now known as Shanty Town. “Right down the street from the Boys and Girls Club,” she said.
Through the years, Nixon has watched her neighborhood and the rest of Pensacola become a different city than the one she was raised in.
“The violence has gone up,” she said. “I’m fearful for the young adults. We used to fight with our hands. Now, teens have weapons.”
For years, Nixon, a business manager at Carlisle Property Management in Morris Court, had the dream to host a peace rally in the neighborhood—a way to bring families and neighbors together for lighthearted fun. As it often goes, Nixon’s busy work schedule always got in the way until last year.
“This community cried for something positive, and we really needed some help,” she said. “I am only one person that saw a dream and decided to make it a reality last year when a tenant of mine got beaten to death at a local park.”
That tenant was 18-year-old Ronika Nicole Sconiers. According to police reports, the early 2013 incident began while Sconiers was at a party. A fight erupted later that evening at a park in Morris Court, where a group of young females kept repeatedly beating Sconiers. The young woman was taken to the hospital, but died shortly after being taken off a ventilator. She left behind a baby boy.
After Sconiers passed away, her mother and step dad, now guardians of her son, moved to New York.
“She could not bear to look outside her window and see that park,” Nixon said.
The story of Sconiers isn’t a first. While the Pensacola Police Department released a report earlier this year showing a 14 percent decrease in crime, it doesn’t ease the pain of victims and their families.
“Numbers are meaningless if you’re the actual victim of a crime, but these numbers are good news and a positive trend,” said Pensacola Police Chief Chip W. Simmons in a press release.
Because of the prevalence of crime—there were still 389 violent crimes in the City of Pensacola according to the report—people are afraid to walk outside, Nixon said.
“As with all teens, they have their troubles but this young lady did not need to be taken from this world that soon,” Nixon said.
And so Nixon decided to pursue her what she said God has placed on her heart years ago and do something positive for the community that has seen so much pain.
“I wanted to give this community a free event that promotes living in this area and showing Pensacola that we can have peace and a good time living in the original Morris Court (Area Housing) or Morris Court II and III Apartments and the neighboring community,” she said.
With her cousin, Anthony Murphy, Nixon began getting the word out, posting fliers and posters for the event around the community. Eventually other businesses, organizations and volunteers stepped up.
It was at an organizational meeting that the Increase the Peace name came about.
“Someone just said it out loud and everyone said, ‘That’s the one,’” Nixon recalled. “We want to stop the violence. Everyone just needs to get along.”
The peace rally was so successful Nixon hosted another one in August. This month will make the third. It’s important to Nixon that everything at the event is free, so she has partnered with Pathways for Change, City of Pensacola Police, City of Pensacola Fire Department, Boys and Girls Club, Area Housing Commission, Waterfront Rescue Mission and more to help make the event happen. There will be free food, live entertainment, bicycles for children courtesy of Salvation Army and activities for the whole family.
“Rev. John Powell of Truth for Youth has been my biggest sponsor,” Nixon said. “He makes sure we have the bouncy houses, brings his portable kitchen and always has his famous Kool-Aid.”
It’s Nixon’s hope that families come together to really set-in the togetherness tone of the rally.
“I believe parents need to be more involved,” she said. “Don’t just send your kids. Let’s start incorporating the families.”
No matter where you live, inside or outside of Pensacola’s city limits, you’re invited for a day of free fun and food.
“We’re just trying to bring peace. All of Pensacola needs it,” Nixon said. “I pray that people will believe in one another and to let families know we can increase the peace and have a peaceful event without violence. To show the families in this area we can enjoy one another without being threatened and worried about violence.”
INCREASE THE PEACE RALLY
WHEN: Saturday March 29, 11:30 a.m.—4 p.m.
WHERE: Morris Court Park (At the corner of N. J St. and W. Brainerd St.)
DETAILS: Tasha Nixon, firstname.lastname@example.org