MIAMI – On Thursday, July 1, with COVID-19 precautions still in place, a half dozen committed souls gathered quietly at Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (NW 62nd Street) and NW 12th Avenue in the Liberty City district at 2:46 p.m. to observe the 15th anniversary of an unforgotten incident that changed Miami forever.
July 1, 2006, a decade and a half ago (already “ancient history” to many of today’s youth), was a typical, hot early summer day in Miami, Florida, a Saturday with people, including children home from school, going about their lives in the bustling historic Liberty Square housing complex affectionately known as the “Pork ‘n’ Beans,” when at 2:46 p.m., the normal hubbub of activity was shattered by the all-too-familiar sound of an exchange of gunﬁre between two men.
This time, although neither was wounded, when the deadly staccato ended as suddenly as it had begun, one sprayed bullet from their automatic weapons had tragically found an unintended target: a bright and promising nine-year-old girl named Sherdavia Jenkins, had been playing with her dolls in front of her home, was struck in the neck by a hot lead projectile which severed her spine, killing her almost instantly.
The shocking incident became “toomuch-and-yet-not-enough” for Miami’s broader community: The year was just at its halfway point, and in Miami-Dade County alone no less than 15 children had been already lost in the previous six months to senseless homicides (this was nearly triple the already shocking statistic of 108 children and youth, aged 0-17, killed in the nine calendar years during which Sherdavia lived: an average on one death per month), but while each one of those losses was unspeakably tragic, the timing and circumstances of her becoming the sixteenth victim would make her death the emblem of all child homicides, awakening the entire region to how serious and out-of-control this inexcusable pattern had become, and how much of a threat to all.
There would be extensive news coverage of the incident and its aftermath, sermons from the pulpits of houses of worship, heightened concerns and precautions among parents, and, not to be forgotten, the passionate and influential voice of late longtime iconic Miami ﬁrebrand social-justice and antigun-violence activist Georgia Jones Ayres, to whom Sherdavia was related, adding to the spirit of sudden awakening and community resolve.
While even such a dramatic awakening of community outrage and concern would not be enough to make any quick or signiﬁcant changes in the increasing homicide rate for years to come, it would lead to heightened awareness, symbolized by the dedication of a Peace Park named in Sherdavia’s memory, where ALL children can be remembered, and to vital networks of support among parents of children lost to gun violence.
All of these past developments and more were part of the 15th anniversary Remembrance, attended by David Jenkins Sr., Sherdavia’s father, popular HOT 105-FM radio host Rodney Baltimore (both of whom participated in a memorial reading of 108 children’s names, while acknowledging ALL others), spoken-word artist Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns, noted Miami artist Marvin Weeks, and Commander Omar Mitchell, ably representing the City of Miami Police Department.
Participants exchanged prayerful wishes, and numerous signiﬁcant ideas and insights, highlighted by “Butterfly” Vaughns’ eloquent verses, before small but powerful ceremony with the placement of red roses at the park.
Perhaps most notably, while the occasion was a remembrance and honoring of past lives, the main focus of the gathering was the future, and what each of us can do with the talents and resources we have to correct or eliminate the causes of such senseless violence and callous disregard for the lives of others.
That spirit of dedication coming out of the small gathering will surely result in newsworthy developments in the year(s) to come.