Amaria Pedro, 9, sculpted three hearts out of soft brown clay in memory of Philando Castile, her lunch supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul. Her big sister Alaysia Duncan, a sophomore at Central High School, painted her clay heart green and yellow and stamped the word "hope" inside it.
"I liked my lunch guy and I feel so bad for him," Pedro said.
The sisters were part of an outpouring of community support for Philando Castile at Sunday's "Central honors Philando" event, meant to honor his life and raise money for a scholarship in his name. More than 500 people attended the fundraiser at St. Paul's Dunning Recreation Center, planned by Central High School alumni from Castile's class of '01 and several others, which featured music, food and kid's activities.
"We all had a lot of rage and anger and grief, and we decided to channel that," said Karla Basta, an organizer from the class of '01. "Central is a really loyal school, and this was all done by Central alumni."
Local DJs and musicians, like hip-hop act Heiruspecs, entertained while families bought raffle tickets and ate hot dogs and kids lined up for face-painting. Attendees also made clay hearts as part of a project called Healing Hearts: Activism through Art, created by north Minneapolis artist Cristina Benz.
Organizers said total funds exceeded $25,000 by day's end. Fundraising brought in well over $10,000 — the initial goal — a week before the event even took place, organizers said.
Castile, 32, was killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights, with the shooting's aftermath streamed live on Facebook by Castile's girlfriend.
Since Castile worked in food service at J.J. Hill elementary school, the scholarship money will go to a Central student from an underprivileged background interested in studying education or child development.
"We have a lot of high-school graduates working in elementary and middle schools but they don't have their teacher's license," said Adrian Perryman, an organizer and '03 graduate. "These individuals relate to the students greatly, but they can't affect the curriculum."
Many of these paraprofessionals are black men, said Perryman, assistant director of academic advising at Concordia University St. Paul.
"It's a beautiful thing that Philando's classmates think enough of him to want to build a scholarship in his name for needy kids," said Clarence D. Castile, Philando's uncle.
Clarence Castile, who wore a white "RIP Philando" T-shirt, called for the officer who shot his nephew to be charged and convicted. After a paid leave, Yanez was expected to return to desk duty at the St. Anthony police department last week, pending completion of an investigation into the shooting.
Many attendees said they came to see something positive come from the injustice of Castile's death.
With a 3-year-old son, Charlotte Munkel-Olson said she doesn't feel comfortable attending protests but wanted to support the cause.
Gregory Crockett, Castile's best friend, said he thought a scholarship was a great idea.
"It would be really dope if this scholarship could produce a couple of black teachers," said Crockett.