‘Papa Keith’ Walcott leverages celebrity status for good

Keith Walcott aims to stop gun violence.

Every year, the 52-year-old Miami radio host known as “Papa Keith” leads a festival in a troubled part of South Florida that includes a call for a 24-hour cease-fire, as well as music, food and games.

“A part of our mission statement is showing you that you matter,” he’s said while addressing his listeners on WMIB 103.5 The Beat.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., by Trinidadian immigrants, Walcott moved to Miami in 1992. He has become not only a prominent figure in radio, but also a fighter for those in the community who need help.

He found his love of radio as a small child.

“I was always fascinated by radio,” said Walcott. “I used to imitate all of the personalities I used to hear back in the day.”

There was never a doubt in his mind about his future career path. And, after performing on the streets of Brooklyn, he sought his big break in the Magic City.

“My first shot on the radio professionally was in 1999 with 99 Jamz,” said Walcott, naming the South Florida radio station owned by Cox Media Group. He started there as an intern.

During his time with 99 Jamz, Walcott studied hard to learn everything he could about radio and perfect his craft. While there he earned a degree in radio broadcasting and began appearing on some of the station’s most popular shows, including Luther Campbell’s “The Luke Show.”

Four years later in 2003, Walcott was hired by a brand-new station in Miami owned by iHeartRadio, WMIB 103.5 The Beat. He was named full-time host of the nighttime show, where he played music and talked to his audience about things affecting the community.

Walcott quickly achieved prominence, with “Radio & Records” magazine naming him one of the 10 “Jocks On The Rise” in 2003; he was also featured in Miami New Times’ 2005 “Best of Miami” edition as “Best FM Radio Personality.”

In 2017, he began collaborating with Florida Majority to start hosting small festivals to promote voting in areas prone to gun violence.

“It went from pay gigs to doing this for free,” Walcott said. “That kind of sparked me wanting to create something where I could gather a bunch of people who wanted to provide resources, and connect them with a free hip-hop concert.”

The first People Matter Fest was held in Liberty City. Its 5,000 attendees enjoyed a day of hip-hop, sports, food and more.=

People Matter Fest has grown over the years and been held at Traz Powell Stadium, Gwen Cherry Park and Ives Dairy Estates, among other locations.

“The festivals, we do them specifically in the hardest places, the most difficult to reach,” said Walcott. “We do that for a specific reason, to show them we care.”

He continues to innovate and improve upon the event each year.

“My goal is to unite, suppress gun violence and create a community,” Walcott said. “Hip-hop is my life, so to be able to bring community and hip-hop together in this way is very special to me.”