Vigil held to remember shooting victims
Since Tanya Fincher’s 17-year-old son Desmond was killed in 2005, she said she has yet to muster up the courage to visit her son’s grave after his burial.
“I don’t feel like I would come back from [the cemetery], so I never go,” said Fincher. “It has been a big drastic change in my life.”
But on New Year’s Day, Fincher joined dozens of Miami residents, law enforcement officers, community activists and other mothers who are familiar with her never-expiring pain, for a march and candlelight vigil against gun violence.
Last month, gunfire claimed the lives of at least three children, including 2-year-old Carnell Williams-Thomas, who was killed while playing outside an apartment complex in the Goulds neighborhood.
So the members of Parents of Murdered Kids, a support and advocacy group, turned what was supposed to be the second annual candlelight vigil for their children into a larger march and rally.
The participants marched from the corner of Northwest 87th Street and 17th Avenue toward the Greater Holy Cross Missionary Baptist Church, 1555 NW 93rd Terrace.
They called on the community to spit out the bad seeds, the criminals, from their neighborhoods. Some mothers and even children carried signs.
“Enough is enough,” said Romania Dukes. “We just can’t take it anymore.”
Dukes’ 17-year-old son wanted to be rapper. He was learning how to be a young father to his newborn daughter, according to Dukes, when he was killed by a stray bullet near the Cutler Manor Apartments, 10875 SW 216th St.
It takes community involvement to stop the violence in the Black Miami neighborhoods, said Dukes.
“We are losing too many kids. We are losing our grandkids, our sisters and brothers,” she said. “These are our kids, and we need to get more involved! We are not living in 1980s anymore when we believed in no snitching.”
Parents, law enforcement, church leaders and other community residents chanted at times. At other points, mothers stopped and pleaded for people to come forward with information. The group also formed a circle and prayed over the children right before nearing 93rd Street.
In front of Holy Cross for the vigil, on display, were small drawings on black boards illustrated in white chalk of the 72 children that were killed. Some of the mothers and relatives turned away in pain.
Regina Talabert whispered something softly to her daughter Noricia’s picture and gazed away holding back tears.
Noricia was an honor student, who had just received her acceptance letter for the University of Central Florida, when she was killed by a drive-by shooter in 2015.
Talabert still keeps her daughter’s dirty clothes, clinging to the only thing of her child she has left— her scent.
“I have sleepless nights. I am trying to make a change in our community to get the other kids to put the guns down, so regular kids could go to college, could come out and play in the yard,” she said.
‘If you see something, say something’
Earlier last year, Parents of Murdered Kids put pressure on state lawmakers to pass a law that makes it easier for witnesses to testify.
The HB III or “witness protection” bill, passed on July 1, stops murder witnesses’ identities from being released in public records for two years after the crime.
“You got to break the silence, you got to, even if it’s in your home,” shouted a woman from the crowd. “That’s what you have Crime Stoppers for!”
The Miami-Dade & Florida Keys Crime Stoppers offers anonymous tippers a reward for information from $50 to $3,000, according to their website. But some cases, such as 2-year-old Carnell’s, have exceeded that amount.
“Don’t be afraid to say something whether it be a million dollars, $1, you should tell for no dollars,” said Dukes.
Like Dukes, most of the parents who attended said their children’s cases remained unsolved.
The first responders who are tasked with solving the crimes said that they are also frustrated with the gun violence and the lack cooperation from the public.
Jorge Colina, a Miami assistant chief of the police, said that most of the crimes happen in plain sight in front of several witnesses, but people are afraid to speak.
“I understand the thought that nothing good could come to me…But you have to have some courage,” said Colina. “You can’t accept that in any neighborhood.”
‘There is no expiration date on our pain’
“You don’t want to lose a loved one. You don’t want to be in this group I’m in,” said Dukes. “I don’t want to be in this group. We cry every day, constantly.”
Fincher said she joined Parents of Murdered Kids late last year, 12 years after her son’s murder because she was finally ready to talk about it and longed for support. Her son Desmond left behind an unborn son, whom she helps raise.
Miami activist Tangela Sears started the group after her son, David G. Queen Jr., was killed in Tallahassee in 2015.
“I wanted to reach out to parents that go through the same thing, so maybe we can draw from each other,” said Fincher. “Some are weaker than others.”
Talabert urged other parents to be active in their children’s lives to guide them in the right direction, so that all of them could stand a chance to have a future.
A luxury that her daughter never got.
“My daughter didn’t give me a daughter or son, she didn’t get a chance to marry. He took all of that away from me and my family,” said Talabert. “And all I am asking and pleading to community is, if you see something, say something.”
This story was originally published in the Miami Times on Jan 3. 2018.