BY BROOKE SMITH
Jamaica residents are taking their community back from the gun violence that has taken too many of their youth. The death of Jihad Jackson, a 16-year-old boy who was fatally shot on New Year’s Eve, has pushed the community to the point of demanding a change.
Jackson’s friends and family joined City Councilman I. Daneek Miller and community activists at the corner of Merrick Boulevard and 109th Avenue Thursday night for a community vigil, then marched behind the mourning family to Jackson’s old middle school, The New Preparatory Middle School for Technology and Performing Arts. A crowd of more than 100 chanted “Guns downs, lives up!” and “Stop the violence!” as police escorted them to the middle school.
“Senseless gun violence is not an acceptable norm. This is not our culture. This is not what we go to work for every day,” Miller said.
A teary-eyed crowd held each other while wearing their “Peace is a lifestyle” shirts in support of Jackson’s mother and aunt, who were joined by three other mothers who have lost their sons to gun violence.
“I never knew the community would come out so deep for something like this,” said Jackson’s mother, Marguerite Tolson-Jackson. “My son is not the first kid that has gotten killed in this neighborhood and I’ve never seen this before. Enough is enough. How many more kids got to go before someone makes a change?”
“Get better hobbies, educate yourself. I have five sons and I have to pray every day that I hear from them or they come home to me,” said Jackson’s aunt Domanecia Davis. “We need to put a stronger emphasis on gun control. At 16 years old I should not be burying my nephew, I should be going to see his basketball games.”
Tolson-Jackson now joins other mothers who have suffered the loss of a child to gun violence, including Carolyn Dyxon, Donna Hood and Shenee Johnson. These mothers are working to ensure their children’s lives were not lost in vain by turning such tragedy into an opportunity to seek change.
“The moment that my son’s life was taken was the moment that I became an advocate against gun violence. So that’s why I have to come,” said Johnson, whose son was killed six years ago. “I have three other children to fight for as well as other children in the community.”
Hood and her family have started the KLM Jr. Foundation in the name of her son, Kevin Lamar Miller Junior, who was killed by a stray bullet in 2009.
“We’re trying to give the kids an opportunity to attend college by giving scholarship money,” she said. “If they were able to go away to college and better themselves maybe that would be one less dead child on the street.”