MIAMI — More than 30 family members and residents gathered at a memorial park Friday to mark the fifth anniversary of the killing of a 5-year-old girl for whom the facility is named.
A horn sounded at 2:42 p.m., marking the exact time on July 1, 2006, when Sherdavia Jenkins was struck by a stray bullet in a gun battle between two adults.
Carib Tribal Indian Queen Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez conducted a traditional Native American ceremony to bless the land on which the park sits.
“Please protect the children, they are angels,” Ramirez intoned repeatedly during her prayer for the young ones.
Ramirez is a spiritual leader and medicine woman from the Carib nation in Trinidad. A voice for indigenous people, her activism on behalf of indigenous rights and empowerment takes her around the world. She also maintains a weekly prayer vigil at the Miami Circle, an archaeological site located along the Miami River in the downtown area.
Sherdavia was the 16th youth killed in 2006 as a result of gun violence in Miami-Dade County.
During the memorial ceremony at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park at the southwest corner of Northwest 12th Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard in Liberty City a hollow monument designed and created by members of the Kuumba Artist Collective of South Florida was unveiled.
A list containing names of 109 children aged 14 and under who died from violence during Sherdavia’s lifetime, as well as a city of Miami flag and handwritten prayers were placed in the monument and sealed.
The monument will never be re-opened, Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, founding member of the collective, said. It will be marked by a tiled plaque over the next few weeks.
“A life was taken prematurely, but not in vain,” said Miami City Commissioner the Rev. Richard P. Dunn II, who placed the flag in the monument. “Sherdavia is to be remembered.”
Sherdavia Lamara Alicia Martha Jenkins was described as “sweet, smart and every mother’s dream” by her aunt, Lijah Dawn Williams. The 9-year-old loved video games and dreamed of becoming a Web designer.
“Things have not gotten better; there’s not enough constructive things for kids to do,” said Williams, a Miami Gardens native.
Catherine Manuel, Sherdavia’s great-grandmother and a West Little River resident, said that things will have to get better.
“There’s so much killing going on in this area … I just don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Manuel.
At the time of Sherdavia’s death, Williams was pregnant. “We talked about my baby, about her being born,” Williams said. “But she died one month before and didn’t have the chance to see my daughter. It’s a tremendous loss.”
Williams and Manuel, along with about 30 family members and community residents gathered on July 1 to reflect on Sherdavia’s life and pray for peace in the community. The date marked the fifth anniversary of her death.
Manuel said being at the park, which was named for Sherdavia in 2009, “brings back memories of something that just didn’t need to happen.”
“I mean the park is beautiful. And it was a good idea to name it for [Sherdavia], but these kids are still losing respect for their parents … the killings need to stop,” she said.
David Jenkins, Sherdavia’s father, said he is “on a mission to take the streets back.”
Jenkins said that he is working with the Miami police department in hopes of “building a ladder of communication.”
“No one should have to repeat my experience. The 109 names on a list was too long; one name is too long. I don’t want to see one more child lost to violence,” Jenkins said.
Liberty City resident Tirshina Albert, who attended the event, said she too was tired of “always reading about somebody’s child dying.”
“When is it going to end? We came out here to honor [Sherdavia’s] life but the real honoring needs to be done when we leave here and have to deal with our own kids,” Albert said.
Cynthia Roby can be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
Photo: Sherdavia Jenkins