MIAMI – Some 50 people gathered at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park on the corner of Northwest 62nd Street and 12th Avenue in Miami’s Liberty City community Monday to pay tribute to more than 108 children killed in Miami-Dade County over the course of a decade.
The date marked the seventh anniversary of the death of Sherdavia Jenkins, who died from a stray bullet at age 9 while playing on her porch.
Representatives from the KUUMBA Artists Collective of South Florida, the Multi-Ethnic Youth Group Association (MEYGA) and the Liberty City Trust joined Sherdavia’s parents, David and Sherrone Jenkins, and others for an informal remembrance ceremony performed by Catherine “Hummingbird” Ramirez, a Carib tribal Indian queen.
The event included a ceremonial cleansing of the land, reading of the names and ages of all the children, pouring of libations and a native Indian prayer which ended at 2:42 p.m., the exact time Sherdavia was pronounced dead.
But there was more to the message than remembering the slain children. Organizers and
attendees urged one another to make it a personal mission to educate, protect and save the lives of youth.
“We’re assembled here with the thought that from 1997 to 2006, we lost 108 children in this community alone. That’s way too long a list and, unfortunately, the killing didn’t end in 2006,” said Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, cultural
activist and principal organizer of the KUUMBA Collective.
“We’ve got to do a better job educating our young people to be protectors and defenders of the community, instead of being a threat to the community,” Tinnie said.
Tinnie’s remarks were echoed by others, including retired educator and writer Maud Newbold, who said the turnout should have been bigger because it was the community’s responsibility to embrace all children and come together to keep them safe.
“My heart is heavy knowing that we’re not only celebrating the life of Sherdavia Jenkins but also the lives of so many other children that have been lost,” Newbold said. “We have to be humbled by this. We cannot afford to be selfish in thinking about them and remembering them. They are our children.”
Other children mentioned during the remembrance included Rickia Isaac, the 5-year-old also killed by a stray bullet in 1996 while walking home from Liberty City’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade on the civil right leader’s national holiday, and Cynteria Phillips, the 13-year-old who was raped, murdered and left in an alley near Miami Edison High School in 2000.
Samantha Quarterman, executive director of the Multi-Ethnic Youth Group Association (MEYGA), which serves girls aged 5-14, and helps keep the Peace Park clean, said members of her group can relate to Sherdavia.
“They keep the park clean so they will know that they can’t just be takers all the time, they have to give back,” Quarterman said.
She said her girls help keep the park clean and attend ceremonies such as the remembrance so they will never lose sight of the fact that every day of their life is precious.
“[Sherdavia] was a very smart young lady. How many 9-year-olds do you know that could’ve played chess? She left a legacy behind that makes you wonder what
Sherdavia could’ve been when she grew up and what she could have brought back to her community. My girls can be inspired by that,” Quarterman said.
Sherdavia’s parents David and Sherrone Jenkins were overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection for their daughter and hoped such ceremonies would inspire people and prevent other children from ending up like her.
“We’re proud that the community didn’t forget. Hopefully, it will continue because kids are getting killed left and right and it’s a shame. Maybe if people will come out and show interest, it will end eventually,” Sherrone Jenkins said.
“I feel good knowing that the community doesn’t let us down. When we call, they respond and though it’s not as big a response as some people may
expect, any response is significant,” David Jenkins added.
Tinnie said the remembrance is held twice annually on March 22 and July 1. Organizers invite parents of other slain children to come, join the ceremonies and bring pictures of their kids so the names can be matched with faces.
“We have to do what we’re doing here today: pause, remember and reflect [because] none of these children were unimportant,” Tinnie said.