Block party defies summer’s violence
Community gathers for food, music at focal point of several shootings
Sitting on a bench Sunday in Allentown’s Stevens Park, Michael Frassetto talked about growing up in the city and how his family still lives just blocks away from the park.
It’s a neighborhood that’s seen its share of violence this summer. Early Saturday, an 18year-old man was shot just around the corner — the city’s 28th shooting victim since June 1.
“We are all here because the violence has been going on for too long,” Frassetto said. “It’s sad and unnecessary.”
About 250 people gathered at the park Sunday for a #StoptheViolence Block Party, a way to show community unity in the face of a violent summer.
Frassetto was one of the organizers of the event, which featured live music, cold drinks, grilled food and more for anyone who wanted to stop by.
The event was the latest effort by community members to
speak out against the violence in their neighborhoods. Late last month, about 300 frustrated residents and officials took to the streets for the Walk for Life, which was organized by Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley.
Gun violence has plagued the city this summer. In the most violent episode, 10 people were wounded June 20 when three gunmen opened fire on people leaving the Deja Vu nightclub on Hamilton Street. The nightclub shooters remain at large. Police have made few arrests in the other shootings.
The most recent shooting — which happened just after 4 a.m. Saturday on the 600 block of Park Street — was on the same block in which a 25-year-old man was wounded June 29 and around the corner from where a bullet was shot through a window on North Sixth Street on June 15. It occurred less than two blocks from where Lauren Gonzalez, 33, was shot and killed July 12.
“Violence has become normalized in Allentown,” Frassetto said. “It didn’t used to be this way. There was a time when everyone knew each other and cared about each other. It all starts with the relationships between neighbors. Without that, nothing gets better.”
Frassetto is a former teacher who in 2016 was involved in student walkouts in Allentown School District over what he said then was a lack of support for minority students. He was later found guilty of three out of 417 summary counts of corruption of youth the district filed against him, and was ordered to pay $300.
Today he leads a nonprofit, Allentown Music Scene, that’s focused on giving local young artists a platform. It was one of several groups at the block party Sunday.
As music thumped, children played on playground equipment and teens zipped by on bikes. Adults of all ages watched the activity, not minding the heat of the afternoon. Brightly colored balloons were tied to the gate surrounding the park.
“We are all connected,” said Richard Lovell, who said he was a victim of gun violence in 2014. “I want the kids to see this unity.”
Bringing the community together was a goal of the event.
“Our communities are at their strongest when the generations are connected,” Frassetto said. “We can all come together.”
Morning Call features reporter Jennifer Sheehan can be reached at 610-820-6628 or jennifer.shee[email protected]
Danielle Dorfis and Charles Myers, of Allentown, dance during an anti-violence event Sunday at Stevens Park in Allentown. The Stop the Violence block party featured food and music, attracting several hundred people throughout the day.
Bikers show off their talents during the the Stop the Violence block party in Allentown.