By Christina Santucci
They marched mostly in silence Saturday, stopping only once along the way to pray on Sutphin Boulevard and 116th Road where D’aja Robinson grew up, before reaching the intersection where the 14-year-old was shot and killed last month.
There at the corner of Sutphin and Rockaway boulevards, the crowd of at least 100 strong formed a circle around D’aja’s family and the 15-year-old boy who planned the event to show the slain teen’s relatives support.
Joshua Frank Ricks said he only knew D’aja to say hi from the neighborhood, and after she killed while riding the Q6 in South Jamaica, he wanted to reach out to her family.
“A girl that young shouldn’t lose her life,” he said, “so I felt like I should bring everyone together to show her that we all care.”
On May 18, a gunman pumped several rounds into an idling bus from the outside — one of which struck D’aja, who had just left a friend’s Sweet 16 party, in the head, police said. Kevin McClinton, 21, was arrested in South Carolina about two weeks later and charged in the teen’s murder, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.
Once Ricks came up with the idea for the event, he got in touch with D’aja’s relatives, who were appreciative of the plan to honor her.
“It didn’t matter how many people came, as long as people came out to support her, that was fine,” Ricks said.
On Saturday, he sported a fade with the words “RIP Asia” with hearts shaved into his head.
“This young brother Joshua was compelled to organize this and God brought it together,” said anti-violence activist Lance Feurtado, co-founder of the King of Kings Foundation.
Feurtado spoke to the crowd on behalf of Ricks at the conclusion of the walk: “This is a message to all of you young folks. You are the future generation. You are the future leaders. Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do or what you can’t achieve. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
State Sen. James Sanders (D-Laurelton) was the sole elected official invited to the memorial.
“I was just walking down there trying to figure out just how many marches of this nature I have been in. One is too many,” Sanders said. “If there is anything that we can do, we should use this energy to ensure that there is never a march like this.”
During the walking portion of the event, Sanders and D’aja’s relatives led the group of people participating, some of whom carried posters or wore shirts with D’aja’s photo, down Sutphin Boulevard.
“I walk with the family. I pledge that we are going to work hard to figure out a way to get us out of this downward cycle, this cycle of self-killing,” Sanders said.
Last to speak was D’aja’s mother, Shadia Sands.
Feurtado introduced her by saying, “You know this one right here, this is the one who is hurting the most.”
Sands thanked everyone in attendance and all of those who reached out to her since her daughter’s death.
“I didn’t know she had this much love and support,” she said.
Sands also took a moment to express her gratitude to the NYPD for making an arrest in connection with the shooting and to Ricks for planning the event.
“It’s still not going to replace her. That’s the only D’aja I have,” she said, before breaking down.
The march ended with a prayer, during which everyone there reached out there hands over D’aja’s family.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4589.