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'Stop the Funeral': A new play targeting gun violence

SELENA HILL Special to the AmNews | 3/21/2013, 1:54 p.m.
'Stop the Funeral': A new play targeting gun violence

Thirteen years ago, Bishop Donald Hilliard Jr., the senior pastor of Cathedral International in New Jersey, published a book called "Stop the Funeral" to spread awareness about how violence affects young people. Now Dr. Hilliard has transformed his energy, passion and drive for cleaning up inner-city streets into a stage play under the same name, featuring renowned gospel singer Marvin Sapp.

"Stop the Funeral" is an inspirational play, written and directed by Fernandel Almonor and executive produced by Hilliard, that highlights the havoc that gun violence is wreaking on America's youth. The story features an all-American high school football star named Dante Jackson, who is pressured to support his father's lucrative hip-hop funeral home business. Once Dante is personally touched by the violence that is fueling his father's fortune, he must decide to either take a stance against gun violence or abandon his father.

The purpose of this play is "to create a sense of urgency of what we must do to change the mindset of the often misguided, misunderstood and sometimes the forgotten," Hilliard said on the "Stop the Funeral" website. The production aims to encourage audience members to become active in combating the violence that victimizing the youth adds the website.

"Although each generation faces its own set of challenges, it is and will always be the responsibilities of others to help our youth to become the leaders of tomorrow. 'Stop the Funeral' is a story about taking a stance against insurmountable odds. It's the kind of story whose goal is to inspire a people," said Hilliard.

"Stop the Funeral" will be performed for one night only on Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. in the Union County Performing Arts Center, located at 1601 Irving St., Rahway, N.J. Ticket prices start at $32.50. Contact the Union County Performing Arts Center at 732-499-0441 or visit www.ucpac.com for tickets. For additional information about the play, call 732-826-5293 or visit www.stopthefuneral.com.