Philando Castile was killed six years ago, on Wednesday July 6, 2016. This coming Sunday — August 21, 2022, from 1 to 5 p.m. — we will come together to honor the life of Philando Castile at the seventh annual Central Honors Philando community celebration.
After viewing the aftermath of Philando’s shooting streamed live on Facebook, a combination of frustration, hope, anger and passion culminated in our first event taking place just 46 days later. A flurry of social media posts and messages brought together a small group of his high school classmates who knew we had to do something.
I am one of those people: a friend, a former classmate, a native of St. Paul, a mourner who was called to do more than mourn.
In 2016 many of us had been to marches, contacted our elected officials and donated money to various deserving organizations in response to the loss of Black lives at the hands of police. The news of those deaths was often the first time we heard their names. When the name Philando Castile became a headline, years of memories rushed into our minds. His laugh, his walk, his friendship and more immediately filled our thoughts. We later learned that a police offer in Falcon Heights made the decision to end his life in 40 seconds.
Philando attended St. Paul Central High School, a school that accurately reflects the community of St. Paul. Nearly every demographic of the city is represented in the halls of Minnesota’s oldest high school. While the news of Philando Castile reached around the globe, those of us nearby knew that July 6th wasn’t going to be the end of his story. We knew the Central community had the ability to do something to make a difference.
In the days following his killing, at age 32, a flurry of social media posts, phone calls, text messages and in-person interactions resulted in the concept of a community celebration. We deliberately used that word, celebration. We felt it honored who he was, how he would want to be remembered.
We wanted to create an event that provided everyone with an opportunity to make a difference. Not everyone can march and protest. The ability to donate money isn’t realistic for all. Hoping that an elected official will read your letter or email doesn’t seem like a great use of time for everyone. We knew that people enjoyed coming together.
Our Purpose and Point
Gatherings like Rondo Days, Grand Old Day, the Selby Avenue Jazz Fest, the Taste of Minnesota and others brought people together for various reasons. Food, fun and music brings people together. Why not bring people together — with food, fun and music — but also create a space for them to connect, heal and do something that will make a difference to the community, that will build back and recharge the community.
Central Honors Philando has three main goals:
- We celebrate the life and legacy of Philando Castile, our friend, his mother’s son, his students’ hero.
- We raise money for the Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship, which goes toward the education of young people, especially young Black men, who want a career in education.
- We provide a space for the community — people of various races, backgrounds, ages, interests — to connect and build together, with a common goal.
If you don’t have the ability to march or donate, maybe you can volunteer. A letter to an elected official might seem like a waste of time, but how about connecting with them face to face? You can make a difference just by showing up.
While planning the first event in 2016 we relied heavily on the Central community. Not just alumni but neighbors, former St. Paul residents, nonprofit organizations, students, government employees. Putting on an event in 46 days required some flexibility. When we reached out and asked for assistance, the answer was always yes.
Even with all this help and energy and compassion, we weren’t sure if the celebration would be an annual thing. Once the event started in 2016 and we saw the community’s response, we knew we would be back. This couldn’t just be a one-time event.
We’ve adjusted the schedule and layout to improve the event over the years. By 2019 we were set and polished and ready to continue in 2020. The pandemic changed that. Although we were able to create a new virtual experience in 2020 and 2021, we knew a big part and a central point of Central Honors Philando was the ability for people to connect in person. This Sunday will be our first time back in person since 2019, and we are all excited to celebrate together.
Profiting from his name is something that we strive to avoid. The event is outdoors to avoid venue rental costs. All the performers donate their time. And the event is planned and put on by volunteers. All the proceeds from Central Honors Philando go to the Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship. We have been able to award six $5,000 scholarships to deserving students so far. In the coming years we hope to increase the number of scholarships and the amount that each student receives.
Food, Fun and Music
The event is family-friendly, but it is the celebration of the life of a Black man who was killed by the police. So serious topics will be discussed, and emotions will be present. Due to the nature of the event, there will be no police presence. The size and scope of the event does not require officers to be on site. We have worked closely with St. Paul Parks and Rec and the City of St. Paul to provide a safe and secure event since year one.
This year’s lineup includes the Heiruspecs, Nur-D, Tearra Oso, DJ-Aquil and more. You can use the Lyft code CENTRALHONORS22 to receive $25 off your ride to and from the event. Food is provided by Big James Cajun BBQ and Sweet Fruci’s Frozen Delights. Kid-oriented activities include facepainting, a bounce house, basketball and art activities.