FAIRFIELD — Mike McKinnon was done with the game, but the game wasn’t done with him.
After writing a letter to his wife from prison that said he wanted to change his life, McKinnon had to take a beating before he would be saved.
“(I was) in that cell screaming for my life while I was getting beaten by gang members,” he said.
McKinnon was rescued by “the same police that I hated,” he said, and placed in protective custody with “nothing but boxers and a Bible.”
“Right then, I gave my life to God,” he said.
The Vacaville man who has done time at San Quentin and Folsom prisons shared his story with a crowd that formed for a free block party and concert at Parkway Gardens, Saturday. Liberty Church’s Break the Cycle barbecue was another in a series of outreach events at the condominium complex that has seen more than its share of violent crime.
McKinnon joined David “Wordsmith” Derf’s Neighborhood Hope Dealer ministry as soon as he left prison and has preached along North Texas Street – reaching out to gang members and helping people get off drugs.
“We bring the church to the streets,” he said.
Tonia Roberts, local outreach coordinator at Liberty Church, said Break the Cycle is a response to all the violence and murders in Fairfield.
“(We use) a neighborhood transformation model that we’re using to impact Parkway Gardens,” she said.
Saturday’s block party featured Derf’s inspirational hip-hop and a receptive crowd that was enjoying the free barbecue and children’s activities, such as a bounce house and face painting, not far from the community pool.
“I think it’s making a significant impact,” Roberts said of Break the Cycle. “Our goal is to build trust with residents and owners and provide access points to resources . . . getting people to be more neighborly with one another and get out of their houses and feel safe.”
Chyna Starr, 13, said she’s tired of the shootings, fights and gang activity that have marred Parkway Gardens. Starr’s cousin, Terrell Brumfield, was shot and killed Jan. 4 in the complex. He was 21.
“I lost family,” she said.
Starr delivered a speech during the barbecue and has hope for a safer community. Since Break the Cycle started, she has gotten to know the people of Liberty Church and the Neighborhood Hope Dealer ministry.
“I learned that no matter what family you came from, what gang . . . there’s always hope . . . to be better,” she said.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.