An evening of remembrance and support took place on March 30 as approximately 50 people gathered to honor Washington, D.C. youth who were involved in a drive-by shooting on March 30, 2010.
The five-year reflection took place at Faith Presbyterian Church in Southwest D.C. Presented as the “March 30 South Capitol Street Massacre,” the tragic incident involved eight youth; mostly teenagers. Four were killed and four were injured. The four who died were DeVaughn Boyd, 18; Brishell Jones, 16; William Jones III, 19; and Tavon Nelson, 17. Those injured in the shootings were Kevin Attaway, Jamal Blankney, Rashauna Brown and Jahbari Smith.
The forum’s theme was “Gun Violence: Then and Now – A Look at Where We Are From 2010 to 2015.” Four panelists voiced their opinions and shared personal stories of dealing with gun violence. They included Nardyne Jefferies of Stop Killing Innocent People (S.K.I.P.), the mother of Brishell Jones; and Tracy Trammell, an advocate and entrepreneur, who is part of the Ban the Bullet group in Los Angeles. She wants to form a similar group in the District using her experience in L.A.; she currently works in Ward 8.
Also present was Shanda Smith, the president and CEO of MURDERMISTAKEN, a non-profit organization which provides direct services to District residents who have lost children through violence.
“My son and daughter, ages two and four, were mistakenly killed one week before Christmas in 1993,” Smith said. Each year she hosts a Christmas party for children in the District with the help of the Metropolitan Police Department. Smith has two other children, now ages 23 and 25.
The Rev. Vaughn Perry, an assistant pastor and youth mentor at the church, said he believes the world is different for youth today than when he was young. “The doors of the church need to be more open to people’s needs,” Perry said.
Questions for the panelists included ways to stop gun violence, recommendations for deterring gun violence, mental health issues, names of organizations for youth who have committed a crime, and any school programs that talked about vestiges of crime.
“You have to become more community involved. Go to ANC meetings and write your council members,” Jefferies said.
Smith responded, “When you get sick and tired of what’s going on, it takes more than one person.”
“We need to talk about it, we act like it doesn’t exist,” said Perry referring to African American denial on mental illness. “We don’t need to stigmatize it.”
On police/community relations Jefferies said, “There needs to be more dialogue and creative thinking. Now they just zip up and down the streets, they need sensitivity training.”
“There is lost faith in the police, they need to come back to the community,” Trammell added. “A lot of us don’t want to open the door when we see the police.”
After the discussion, a candlelight vigil took place one block from the church at South Capital and Brandywine Streets Southeast, where the shootings took place. Pastors prayed and family members made comments during the vigil.
“We need to hold our leaders accountable,” said Norman Williams, whose son Jordan Howe, 20, was shot the week before the massacre. Williams believes the problems started over a man’s bracelet. “Our youth are killing each other over nothing,” he added.
“It’s kind of hard to describe the way I feel, but today I couldn’t stop crying,” said William Jones II, whose son was killed in the shootings. Jones has seven children, and recalled how his daughter, Cynthia Gray, was gunned down near B Street and Benning Road Northeast in 2006. Jones stated he also has a son in the hospital that has been in a coma since 2011.
“I think it’s peer pressure more than what’s at home,” he said. “These kids, they’re not stupid, not dumb, they’re smart, but it’s getting real bad . . . my son wasn’t supposed to . . . it’s nonsense.”