A star-studded party took over the Oregon District on Sunday, with an estimated 20,000 plus in attendance to honor the victims of the Oregon District mass shooting and help the community heal.
Gem City Shine was hosted by Yellow Springs area resident comedian Dave Chappelle. Earlier in the day, Chappelle joined Grammy-winning performer Kanye West for a Sunday Service at RiverScape.
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The event was also designed to raise money for the victims and survivors of the Aug. 4 mass shooting, where a gunman killed nine people before being killed by Dayton Police.
“The best way we can honor our fallen is by getting up better than we were before,” Chappelle told the crowd. “We won’t let those people die in vain.”
Those killed in the shooting were Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saheed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; Megan Betts; and Beatrice Warren Curtis, 36.
Chappelle energized the crowd and paid tribute to the strength of the region.
“Don’t forget what this place is about. Mankind learned how to fly in this city,” Chappelle said.
“Nothing can break our spirit,” Chappelle said. “You’re my friends and neighbors, and you give me strength.”
Chappelle said he had friends fly in from all over the country here to “tell this city that they love you.”
Music icon Stevie Wonder was the headliner of the event. Among his hits, he performed Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I Wish and Sir Duke.
Also performing was Grammy winner Chance the Rapper, Talib Kweli, Teyana Taylor, and Thundercat. Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che were also seen at the event.
“We’re not just doing this for our city, we’re doing this for every victim of every mass shooting in our country,” Chappelle said.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley took the stage after Chappelle, wishing the comedian a happy birthday and leading the crowd of thousands to sing to him. She declared the day “Dave Chappelle Day.”
“This past summer has challenged us to our core, and we rise. These past three weeks I have seen this community come together to grieve, to love and to demand action,” Whaley said.
She said “Dayton, the world is watching and they heard your call to do something. We must do something to end gun violence. Dayton, we changed the world once, we can change the world again.”
Chappelle said Sunday was a historic day.
“This is one of the best days of my life. And I’m so happy I get to spend it with all of you,” he said.
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart also addressed the crowd.
"Dayton, Ohio, you have reclaimed this area," Stewart said.
Tight security, large crowds
There was heavy security throughout the Oregon District Sunday.
Concertgoers had to wait in long lines to go through metal detectors.
Dayton Police Major Wendy Stiver said the community didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for such a major event.
“We’re doing the best with what we can and making it safe. We just hope people understand we are putting their safety first," she said.
Mayor Whaley said no public money was used for security expenses.
“There’s no taxpayer dollars being spent on this. The chamber of commerce and I raised the dollars for the security for here so it’s not a burden on the city at all. We’re just super grateful how generous Dave Chappelle has been on donating the stage, bringing the talent in, this is a tremendous gift to the community that he’s given,” Whaley said.
Neighbors, businesses react
Business owners in the Oregon District said Sunday’s event was important for the community in helping to heal after the mass shooting earlier this month.
“It’s reclaiming Dayton. We don’t want anybody to be scared,” said Abby Beach, whose family runs the Trolley Stop. “We want everyone to know it’s an exciting and fun-loving community.”
Amanda Hensler, co-owner of Heart Mercantile, said the store was busy on Sunday as crowds gathered for the event.
“It’s been real busy, we’re having fun,” she said. “It’s a great community, let’s keep it that way.”
Volunteer Gina Sandova, working at the donation tent, said people have really been turning out to donate to the tragedy fund.
Church service with Kanye West kicked of the day’s events
Just hours before the Gem City Shine event started, a large crowd gathered in the morning at RiverScape MetroPark for a Sunday Service hosted by Grammy winner Kanye West.
West, his wife Kim Kardashian and their children held the Sunday Service in support of the victims and survivors of the mass shooting.
West has held similar events around the country.
Chappelle was also at the service Sunday morning.
“Listen, we’ve been through a tough time,” he said. “There have been tornadoes, there’s been Klan rallies, there’s been shootings — but we’re still here and we’re still strong,” Chappelle said.