With Contributions from Emberlin Leja
We are the ones who, together, will stop gun violence in our community.
Every speaker, poet, and singer spoke to a crowd of over 100 people who came to commemorate the lives of those who were lost to gun violence. With many victims’ families present, speakers all echoed the responsibility we bear, as a community, to stop violence. Tonight’s speakers stressed the need for support, love, partnership, empathy, and ultimately, unity.
“You can’t spell community without saying unity,” said Lepa Jones, President of Mothers Against Gun Violence. Mothers Against Gun Violence was formed to reduce incidents of gun violence and be a resource to victims and their families. The annual vigil in Clinton Square commemorates the lives of those who’ve been lost to gun violence in the past year and beyond.
Mayor Walsh and Deputy Mayor Owens we’re both present to speak and stand with community residents in acknowledging the need for unity and a shared commitment to end a problem that not only claims lives in Syracuse but across the country.
“If we look at El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, we realize that not just our city but our entire country is plagued with gun violence,” said Mayor Walsh. “The same urgency we feel about gun violence across our country is the same urgency we need so long as shots are fired in our neighborhoods.”
The mayor promised to continue grieving with and fighting for families and their safety. The mayor also praised local leaders whom he said are selfless and inspiring in their work to keep communities safe.
“I am humbled and I am in awe of the leaders and partners in our community. They fight battles against gun violence every single day,” he said.
In songs, remarks, and printed tee shirts with the faces of young men and women, it was painfully apparent that many victims of our city’s gun violence are youth.
“We are not letting our children’s lives be in vain,” she said.
The songs and poems that filled Clinton Square were not only painful reminders of how violence affects and traumatizes youth but the expressions also proved that creative outlets can be deterrents to violence by helping others heal.
Keynote Speaker Rasheada Caldwell spoke on the need to replace the pain with purpose. “We are ensuring our children’s legacies live on,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell, who has spawned several initiatives to honor her son, Rasheed Baker, challenged young people and adults alike to be great in their pursuits and dreams and to harness that greatness to stand up against violence that has plagued the community for so long.
In a sobering plea for change [3:20 seconds], Lepa Jones spoke to the audience about how the pain of seeing a mother who lost her child to gun violence less than 30 days ago was enough.
“Each mother here represents the power given to us to survive and to be victorious even in the face of death,” said Pastor Lateef Johnson-Kinsey during his opening prayer.
“Every day that passes gives us more strength to keep going, to keep pushing, and to keep moving forward,” said Lepa Jones.