Efforts to clean up the Massey Hill neighborhood in Fayetteville on Saturday were not limited to just one day or one person, organizers said.
YouTubers, musicians, boxers and volunteers came out to clean up the community, which was in memory of a local rapper who grew up in it.
But the focus, organizers said, was about bringing the community together to help those in need.
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Nonprofit One Fayetteville planned the event back in February, said Michele Ornelas, a cofounder of One Fayetteville.
One Fayetteville organized a community cleanup near Orange Street several months ago, with the cleanups being more than “just picking up trash,” Ornelas said.
“We are interacting with the residents,” Ornelas said. “We want to give these residents in the city a voice.”
Ornelas said it’s helping residents who face hurdles with code enforcement for abatements, find hypodermic needles littered near their homes or are dealing with landlords.
One of the residents in the Massey Hill community, who One Fayetteville and volunteers helped, needs a new roof and wheelchair ramp, Ornelas said.
Others want to see their improvement in their neighborhood, she said.
Antonio “Tony” Smith is one of those residents.
Smith retired from boxing after a 30-year career and returned to Fayetteville after living in Philadelphia, to train area kids how to box at no cost.
“I’m glad to see people,” Smith said. “I’m ready to go to work, too. I’m going to go change my clothes.”
Before Smith grabbed a trash bag to join the volunteers, he paused to take a photo with Roy Jones protégé, Michael Williams Jr., who also is a boxer and from Fayetteville.
Williams said when he heard about the cleanup, he wanted to give back to a community that’s “shown him love” in his own career.
“They’re like my biggest motivators, so coming out here to help clean is the least I can do,” he said.
YouTuber and local clutter cleanup and bulk delivery business owner Phillip Owens shared a similar mindset.
Owens, known as “ForeiggnfargoMusic” on YouTube, brought his 5-year-old son Phillip Owens Jr. to Saturday’s clean up with him.
It’s something he said his own father, who is a pastor near Raeford, instilled in him when he was his son’s age.
“I can tell him that I did all this when I was his age, but showing is a different step,” Owens said. “It’s way more powerful than telling. Now he’s getting his hands dirty as well.”
Though Fayetteville rapper Morray was unable to attend Saturday’s cleanup because of being out of town, dozens of his friends through his affiliated Everybody’s Family group helped with Saturday’s cleanup.
“This is a good cause, so we’re always willing to come out for good causes to show our support,” said Trevonne Carlisle, who is part of the Everybody’s Family group. “The more we come out the more people know who we are and that we can help.”
Bringing the community together for a common cause is something Tony Brown, chief executive officer of nonprofit Southern CC Inc., wants to see continued in Fayetteville.
Brown’s nonprofit was one of the sponsors of Saturday’s event.
Though the event was planned a few months ago, Brown said he met Massey Hill resident Mary Beard a few weeks ago at rapper Morray’s “Trenches” music video shoot.
Beard’s son, Darrel Jamal Wilson, was a local rapper known as “UpSouth30,” who died March 9 at the age of 35.
Massey Hill was one of the neighborhoods he grew up in.
Saturday’s cleanup was held in his memory, said community activist Rakeem “Keem” Jones.
“30 was one of the first people I was gonna call,” Jones said of those he wanted to contact to help with the cleanup. “Many of y’all might not know 30, but he was a real one. He showed love to everyone he came in contact with … We’re going to be helping out this neighborhood, because I know he’d be out here doing it, too.”
Beard said music was one of her son’s passions that brought people of all backgrounds together.
As he toured through the U.S. for shows and rap battles, Beard said 30’s family kept him rooted in Fayetteville.
His wife, Precious Thomas-Wilson, met him when she was 17, and the couple was married for 11 years.
His mother and wife said he was a man “with a good heart” who would give money to help others in need.
They described Saturday’s cleanup as “bittersweet,” because the community supporting their family means a lot, but they wished 30 would have been able to be part of the event.
Beard thanked the volunteers who came out Saturday.
“Everybody needs to learn how to come together,” she said. “ For the next community cleanup, let’s all come out to make it bigger. We’re making a statement for the world to see that we’re cleaning up our city of Fayetteville.”
Ornelas said plans are being finalized for an April 24 cleanup.
As for Massey Hill, she said she’s returning to the neighborhood Wednesday to follow up with residents to find out if they have any additional needs.
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3528
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