8th Annual Peace Festival Remembers Victims of Violence


Sirena Cotton remembered her son Christopher Jones and countless other gun violence victims  in the eighth annual Roc the Peace Peace Festival, held Saturday. The all-day festival brought together a number of homegrown talent including Yolanda Smilez and Roc Bottom Slam Poetry to remember these lives.

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People turned up at Jones Square to play, sing or eat. The performances ranged from comedy to poetry to gospel music and rap. And spread out across the park? Games and vendors- organizations, resources and much more to connect the people of Rochester. This year’s theme was “Peace Begins With Me” a move to hold residents accountable to the future of Rochester. If you want a violence-free Rochester, you have to help make it that way.

“People sleep on Rochester, but this is proof we have stuff,” said LaTosha Griffin, a parent who brought her two-year-old son. She said she was only stopping by but wanted to see some of the performances. “It’s cool that it’s right in the city and really, I’m seeing everyone I know here.”

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This is a common statement for Rochester community events. Like Juneteenth, the Peace Fest brought together many communities in Rochester, serving as a small reunion of sorts.

Sirena Cotton discusses her son, Christopher's, death in 2007. His murder inspired her to create Roc the Peace

Sirena Cotton discusses her son, Christopher’s, death in 2007. His murder inspired her to create Roc the Peace

“I didn’t even know about this but I was kind of around and saw this going on so I walked in,” said Kevonte Lewis, who said he lives in the immediate area of the park. “I didn’t even know we did things like this in this neighborhood but it’s cool because this is something a lot of people in Rochester have gone through you know? So why not have it here?”

Cotton said it’s a tough but necessary event and although every year is overwhelmed missing Jones and the sheer amount of work of organizing, she remembers its value. Jones loved his birthday; she wants to remember it for him but there are also so many families and friends who have lost loved ones that it’s no longer just about her, she said in a June interview; she does it for the community now.

[Related] Roc the Peace Creator Sirena Cotton & Gun Violence: We All Suffer

“I have to continue, no matter how much I want to quit. It’s not just me,” said Cotton.

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