On a sunny, hot Saturday afternoon, something almost unheard of these days appeared at the W.L. Harris Playground in Mayfield: a crowd enjoying time together.
The street was blocked off and food trucks were lined up just outside the playground, where teenagers in full uniforms were going at it on the blacktop basketball court. Music blared and a DJ provided game commentary. Kids rollicked on the playground.
The community event revolves around basketball, as much of the crowd watched games from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Youngsters played the early games, followed by area high school players and then adults.
There also were several booths manned by representatives of local businesses, a new nonprofit tutoring service and religious services. There also was a voter registration booth.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and social strife stemming from police brutality, the eighth annual Peace in da Paint almost didn’t happen. But organizers of the Mayfield event found the right people to help make it happen in a year where nothing seems normal.
“It put a little fork in the road,” said Kentrale “Armani” Washington, who along with his cousin Kisha Turner started the annual gathering eight years ago.
Washington, who also recently organized the Unity in the Community event in the city, echoed what others said—the community needed something like the Peace in da Paint gathering.
“It gives the kids something to look forward to,” he said. “The kids are happy.”
Washington praised Stafford County businessman Vernon Green, who also has been involved in Black Lives Matter protests and gatherings recently, for partnering with them to help make the event happen.
Green said the event means a lot to the children, offering them a chance to get out and do something together.
“A lot of these kids have been cooped up in the house,” he said.
Washington, a musician with the Major League Band who was “born and raised” in Mayfield, said they were taking precautions with the virus by checking temperatures of attendees, wearing masks and trying to social distance.
Social distancing proved difficult with the crowd, even though it was a much smaller gathering than in previous years. Washington said they kept the crowd smaller this year to make it safer.
Even with the smaller crowd, there was plenty of energy during the basketball games and in between, especially when bikes, video game consoles, sneakers and other goodies were given to the children.
Del. Joshua Cole, whose district includes Fredericksburg and parts of Stafford County, was at the event, too, the third time he’s attended.
He said this year it seems to mean a little more.
“I think the community needs something like this, with COVID and the protests going on,” he said.
Washington said he was just glad to see people, especially the children, enjoying themselves.
“I’m very blessed to be able to do this,” Washington said, who added that he’s more about being “positive” during these trying times. “I’m into unity.”