By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Anton Moore grew up with a love of music.
“I always wanted to bring a concert to my community,” says Moore, 27. But the Bartram High School graduate grew up as one of four kids in the Tasker housing projects of South Philadelphia, where concerts were a luxury.
“It was tough growing up,” Moore recalls. “We couldn’t afford what some other people could afford. If one child went to a concert, then all of us had to go, (but) my mother couldn’t afford $50, $60 for a concert.”
But while in high school, Moore scored an internship at a local radio station and then at the cable network Black Entertainment Television in New York, eventually getting a job in music programming.
In 2007, he decided to use his connections to give back by throwing a free block party and concert at 20th and Snyder Streets in South Philadelphia. He called it “Unity in the Community.”
“I didn’t even think it was going to be a big event,” he says, “but 300 to 400 people showed up. And once we did it the first year, people were, like, ‘Who are you bringing next year?’ ”
Artists like Jazmine Sullivan, Angela Simmons, Lil’ Mama, and Meek Mills are among those who have performed for free over the past six years on the “Unity in the Community” stage, in the middle of Snyder Avenue. Moore says there’s also free food, a moon bounce, a DJ battle, and lots of fun for the entire family.
“I promise you: you come to 20th and Snyder for Unity and Community, you can be broke and you will have a good time,” he says, chuckling. “It’s all about giving the youth a good experience.”
The popularity of Unity in the Community has grown over the years. And in 2012, Moore says, he expanded programming to create a pre-event called Peace Week, designed to stop violence in South Philadelphia.
Moore — who some folks refer to as the “mayor” of his neighborhood — says it is paying off.
“It brings everybody together,” he says, “and now people look up to me as a leader, as someone they can talk to about concerns, about what’s going on or if they need help.”
And help he does. During the year, Unity in the Community hosts bookbag drives, a Thanksgiving Day “giveback,” Operation Holiday Help, and the Ultimate Prom Experience.
Moore says he has a lot of help from city councilman Kenyatta Johnson, state representative Jordan Harris, and others who lend a hand and help raise money for the effort.
But finances are limited.
“It’s not easy coming out of pocket, but when it’s a little kid out there getting his face painted, enjoying the concert, it’s priceless,” says Moore, who has donated his own money to the cause.
Earlier this year, Moore won a $10,000 Black Male Engagement grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to continue his work with United in the Community and help ease the financial burden.
“My focus is on young people. We have to give them something to look forward to,” he says, “and that’s what we do.”
Unity in the Community’s 2013 Peace Week kicks off on July 28th, with the annual block party on August 3rd.
For more information, go to www.unityinthecommunity215.com.
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