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Street Fair Aims To Help Heal Troubled Dunn Neighborhood

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DUNN, N.C. — Last month, police officers shot and killed 19-year-old Matthew Burris in Dunn. They said they were trying to serve Burris with a warrant for attempted murder when he pulled a gun on them, although a witness disputes that.

On Saturday, a local group hosted "Manna-Fest" -- a street fair organized in an effort to turn things around a neighborhood that many complain is overrun with drugs, violence and gangs.

The fair, which included games and music, had booths set up with mental health and substance abuse professionals. Organizers hope to make it an annual event.

Neighborhood resident Millicent Massey organized the event with several area churches. The idea was to bring something positive to streets where people are dealing with many problems. Massey's organization, "The Working Group," wants to show neighbors of all ages something better.

"This is just an opening for the people to see, 'Hey somebody (does) care,'" she said.

Massey said she has so much passion because she's not only seen the bad side of the area; she's lived it.

"I was out here 19 years on these streets," she said. "I smoked crack, I drank liquor, I did all that stuff. I was a prostitute and everything."

Massey even went to prison before going clean seven years ago. Now, she said, she's determined to give something back.

"It makes me feel good in my heart that someone really cares for this community," said resident Andrew Jacobs.

Jacobs said he hopes efforts like Manna-Fest this will help turn his street around.

"It been really bad, you know," said Jacobs. "I'm kind of afraid for my kids to come out and stuff."

Dunn police officers said they also support the project.

"We think it's outstanding," said Dunn Sgt. Rodney Rowland. "We wish more of the community from all aspects would get together as one and be more proactive."

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