Photo of Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, organizer and host of the 2019 Block Party and Picnic for Peace, at a legislative site visit convened by the ACE Awareness Foundation in Memphis last year. Photo courtesy of the ACE Awareness Foundation.

Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson understands firsthand the importance of adverse childhood experiences awareness and prevention. As a self-described ACEs survivor, Parkinson is passionate about providing early intervention for children impacted by ACEs.

“Children come into this world as a blank slate,” Parkinson explained. “I think experiences and environments write on that slate and have a great determination on how children turn out.”

At 14, Parkinson found himself at a critical crossroad that could have negatively impacted not only his life but the lives of countless others. Parkinson decided to take matters into his own hands after an incident with a group of school bullies.

“I was going to jail for bringing a gun to school,” Parkinson said. “That’s not normal for a 14-year-old to bring a gun to school to shoot other kids.”

Thanks to a principal’s quick intervention, no one was hurt. Years later, Parkinson realizes how much his environment played a role in his decision that day.

“My norm told me this is how you get to the bottom of things,” Parkinson explained.

Held at the MidSouth Event Center, the annual Block Party for Peace draws hundreds of neighborhood residents and features a three-day agenda of family-friendly activities, local vendors, and health education. Photo courtesy of the Block Party for Peace Facebook page.

He now uses his experience to drive much of his work as a state legislator and community activist. For the past 13 years, Parkinson has brought a growing list of vendors, employers, and much-needed community resources to the Raleigh neighborhood for an annual Block Party and Picnic for Peace. Parkinson is both organizer and host of the family-friendly event, which promotes peace, empowerment, and opportunity in Memphis. “Our strategy has always been to improve the quality of life for people,” Parkinson said in a recent interview.

This year, the schedule of activities for the three-day affair includes a career and education fair, Greek and talent shows, a BBQ cooking contest, a car show, live music, and family fun.

In addition, attendees can visit the Healthy City Health & Wellness tent for free medical screenings, flu shots, pediatric checkups, as well as interactive nutrition and Zumba demonstrations from the ACE Awareness Foundation’s Universal Parenting Place at Christ Community Health Services.

“We are always excited to partner with Rep. Parkinson to increase awareness and understanding of how adverse childhood experiences can change the way we interact with each other — and especially how we parent,” said ACE Awareness Foundation Executive Director Renée Wilson-Simmons. “During this year’s event, there will be demonstrations of two of the activities offered at our Universal Parenting Places — Zumba and a wellness and nutrition class. It’s a great opportunity to showcase some of the ways that exercise and nutrition provide caregivers with strategies to reduce stress, promote health, and build positive relationships with their children.”

Dr. Wilson-Simmons also said that through the foundation’s efforts, a beloved special guest will be participating in the festivities: Cookie Monster. “Our ongoing partnership with Sesame Streets in Communities means a great deal to our Universal Parenting Places,” she said, adding that Sesame Street in Communities builds on a 50-year commitment by Sesame Workshop to caring for the developmental, physical, and emotional needs of children. “Thoroughly researched and tested with families, these resources are proven to make a measurable difference for kids, and make the job parenting a little bit easier. We hope families will come and meet Cookie Monster, then stay and hear about what the Universal Parenting Places have to offer.”

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to reach parents and their kids” Parkinson added.

The 14th Annual Block Party and Picnic for Peace will take place September 27-29 at the MidSouth Event Center at 3385 Austin Peay Highway. For more information about the Block Party and Picnic for Peace, visit