PITTSFIELD — An up-and-coming record label is hosting a "nonviolence barbecue" Friday afternoon in honor of Keenan Pellot Jr., who was fatally shot in July 2015.
Kieshianna Sprague, the label's 24-year-old general manager, is collecting donated basketballs to be distributed to children at the event, where their team will speak about resisting a life of violence.
"He was a really, really great kid," Sprague said of Pellot, who was her stepbrother, who died at age 18. "He was really good at basketball."
The business is called 4 AM The Label.
On July 31, 2015, Thomas Newman, then 18, shot Pellot five times on Tyler Street, after an argument. Two years later, Newman was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of second-degree murder and a charge of armed assault to commit murder for shooting a second victim, who survived with significant injuries.
Sprague said her stepbrother's name and reputation were tarnished in the community when young men, including those who were mourning Pellot, formed what she described as a gang in the wake of his death.
"He wasn't a part of a gang. He wasn't gang-affiliated," she said, adding that, at one point, schools stopped allowing kids to wear shirts memorializing Pellot because of concerns over the neighborhood gang.
Sprague said now that the unrest has died down, she and her friends thought it was a good time to host a barbecue in his memory, and to honor the anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former confederacy, which took place on June 19, 1865.
The idea gained traction at last month's Working Cities Wednesday meeting, and organizations like the Pittsfield Housing Authority, Berkshire County Environmental Action Team, Goodwill and Central Berkshire County Habitat for Humanities jumped on board, said Sharon A. LeBarnes, executive director of the housing authority.
And this isn't the only event that 4 AM The Label will be hosting for the community, Sprague said.
CEO Sataisha Moore and her team plan to engage Berkshire County youths through their business.
In August, the label will host a showcase of local performers, who will pay to participate in the event. Money raised will be put toward establishing a studio for 4 AM The Label, Sprague said. Performers 14 to 16 years old will pay a reduced rate, she said.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at email@example.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.