Billboards in Rochester
Rochester, N.Y. – Five different billboards in Rochester, in two languages are strategically placed in downtown Rochester. The message, in English or Spanish, is the same: “Stop the guns, drugs and violence, or be our next guest.”
Shawn Hemphill, owner of Memories Funeral Home on Hudson Avenue, created the billboard. Everything about it, from the gun to the red lettering, is designed to make people stop and think.
“People don’t say anything, people just sit at the funeral homes and wait for people to come to them,” Hemphill said. “I want to do something where it reaches out to the community.”
Hemphill put upthe billboards because he’s tired of violence. “This is the last stop. Either you’re going to be in jail, or you’re going to be in a funeral home. You can be a guest, seeing the friend, or you can be the one laid out.”
The message on this billboard isn’t just something Hemphill is preaching. He knows that side of life, and has spent time behind bars.
“Years ago, I was into violence, and wanted to fight a lot,” he said. “I hung with the wrong crowd, and they did stuff, and then you do it because they do it, I was kind of caught up in some things like that.”
Vowing never to go back to prison, Hemphill turned his life around. He wants to prevent other teenagers from making the same mistake.
On the streets of Rochester, people are taking notice.
“Mostly the gun gets my attention,” said high school student Jeremy James. “It gets people’s attention. It takes people’s children and families away.”
The bright red lettering caught 14-year old Krystal Crawford’s eye.
“It’s a message to stop all the commotion,” she said, stopping to look at the billboard again. “Stay in school, do what’s right, you don’t need to be involved with drugs or guns to make you seem cool.”
Hemphill has received calls from several different organizations, like Pathways to Peace, and the YMCA, applauding him for his efforts. He plans to keep the billboards up for as long as he can.