Houston’s Black-owned beverage company Exotic Pop is hosting a “March Against Crime” and “Celebration of Life Benefit Concert” in honor of Vanessa Guillen, a young Fort Hood United States Army Specialist who was murdered by a fellow soldier in April 2020.
The March will take place at Vanessa’s high school alma mater, César E. Chavez High School at 3:00 pm on Saturday, May 7.
Two years later, the Guillen family continues to remember her through their activism and The I am Vanessa Guillen Foundation which Exotic Pop will help raise funds and bring awareness.
“We’ve been working with the Guillen family ten months after Vanessa’s death, and our relationship has been really close as far as helping them financially, community involvement, and keeping everyone in the loop as far as progress with legislation,” said Charleston Wilson, Founder, and CEO of Exotic Pop. “We are trying to keep her name alive through things she enjoyed, which was water and music, also it feels good just to do good in the community no matter what race.”
Guillen was last seen on April 22, 2020. Her disappearance to a search that ended on June 30, 2022, when Guillen’s dismembered and burned remains were found near Leon River. Before her death, Guillen reported two incidents where she was sexually harassed but no action was taken.
Her untimely death sent shock waves to the entire nation and changed the way the military handles sexual assault and harassment. Major flaws were found in the culture at Fort Hood, which ultimately led to more than a dozen of Guillen’s officials being fired or suspended.
According to the, I am Vanessa Guillen Foundation website; the family’s goal is to pass legislation of the same name to “build projects, programs, and campaigns” to help survivors report related incidents outside of the military and provide protection against retaliation.
President Joe Biden signed into law the $770 billion National Defense Authorization Act for 2022, a defense bill that included portions of this act.
“It took us a month to plan this. Our community outreach team meets every Thursday on a weekly basis,” Wilson said. “Planning is easier when you have a great community backing. Mayra Guillen, Vanessa’s sister will join the meeting to finalize details for the event.”
The March will proceed down Old Galveston Road to the mural of Vanessa Guillen at Powerhouse Gym, where Exotic Pop and Guillen’s family will introduce a presentation with speakers, special guests, and a live Mariachi band. The Celebration of Life Benefit concert will start at 6:00 pm at The One Club in Spring, Texas. It will include a line-up of musical artists including Galveston-born rapper Peso Peso, Big Tony, Lil’ Hawk, DJ Gloss, and more.
Charles says Exotic Pop created a signature drink called Vanessa Guillen Alkaline Water, a commemorative 16oz bottled water to be sold in form of a charitable purchase. All proceeds from sales have gone to the Guillen Family and the I Am Vanessa Foundation since the product launch. So far, they have raised an estimated $30,000 and anticipate a total of $50,000 at the conclusion of the event.
“I want people to come together to celebrate life and to recognize the efforts and sacrifices this family has made to protect others from this tragedy,” he said. “I want people to keep the momentum going. The March against crime doesn’t stop here.”