King of Kings barbecue celebrates Jamaica community

Lance (l.) and Todd Feurtado
By Phil Corso

Dwayne Walker said he just recently learned about the King of Kings Foundation, a group founded in southern Queens to stop gun violence and promote community involvement, but he was impressed by the group’s message and made the trip to Jamaica for the ninth annual Friends 4 Life community barbecue.

“They have an amazing story,” Walker said of the former gang members and King of Kings founders Todd and Lance Feurtado. “They impact lives and really give back to the community.”

Walker came to also push his own anti-violence group, the Anthony Walker Foundation. He said their shared goals drew him closer to the event.

The King of Kings Foundation celebrated the ninth annual barbecue event Saturday at the Norelli-Hargreaves Playground in Jamaica filled with food, entertainment and community, including a visit from state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans).

Through the sizzling sounds of barbecues and the booming beats of the live bands, DJs and rappers, King of Kings volunteers made their rounds assuring that everyone had a taste.

The key goal of the annual event, Todd Feurtado said, was to encourage a violence-free area so community families could become more closely involved with one another.

“We are just here to love on each other,” he said. “If we can bridge the gap and have everyone meet and get to know each other, it ceases the violence.”

From 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., music filled the park just across the street from where the Feurtado brothers originally grew up. For the King of Kings founders, Todd Feurtado said by bringing the community together, he and his brother could pay back a debt they owe to the community.

“Sometimes, people can’t seem to co-exist together,” he said. “When we say friends for life, we mean it.”

The event was started nine years ago, but has been held only three years at the Jamaica park. With as many as 2,500 people passing through and enjoying the music, food and friendship, some of those who attended said the barbecue brought something the area needs a heaping dose of: love.

The Feurtado brothers are former gang members who said they shifted their focus to changing the lives of others by becoming motivational and inspirational speakers.

“There is much more to this than just networking and another day in the park,” said community activist Judy Ortiz. “We are showing our love for the community by bringing everyone together.”

When booking the afternoon’s musical events, Todd Feurtado said he made sure to enforce a strict anti-profanity policy for the various rappers and DJs performing. Referring to the Jamaica park as holy ground, he said the growing interest in the event must be cherished and respected as an all-ages family activity.

“For today, if not any other day, we will come together as a community and put on something that anyone and everyone can enjoy,” he said. “If we cannot make a child feel safe, then what is our existence for?”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

More from Around New York