MIAMI — Karen Lloyd, a longtime Overtown resident, just spent her first Christmas without her 22 year-old son Brandon. Affectionately called “Charlie,” he became a victim of a drive-by shooting in the wee hours of Nov. 13. According to Lloyd, her son, a student at Miami-Dade College, was hanging out with friends at the corner store around midnight when he was struck down in the crossfire of bullets not intended for him.
“This emptiness I feel is not a good feeling, it’s awful,” Lloyd told the South Florida Times. “I don’t sleep. I’m losing weight because I don’t eat. This really hurts. We as a community need to stick together and do something about these shootings.”
As a call to action in support of families whose loved ones have been lost to gun violence over the past few weeks, local clergy, escorted by members of the Miami Police Department, mobilized more than 75 Overtown residents for a peace march down Northwest Third Avenue on Dec. 14. Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church served as host for the effort, which began with prayer at the church, 245 N.W. Eight St.
Eddie Lake, the church senior pastor, and other clergy, urged the community to unite for change, in cooperation with the police, in an effort to solve violent crimes in Overtown. Standing alongside Miami Police Chief Manuel Arosa, Lake publicly recognized local police officers for their dedication to the community.
“I thank all these wonderful officers who are sacrificing their lives daily to make our community better, but they need our help. They have come out to support this community because they care and because they are in love with this community,” said Lake. “We stand on the shoulders of many great men and women who have labored for a long time to make it possible for Overtown to be here and we don’t want this community to slip under our watch.”
The message delivered continuously throughout the rally was “a call for change” as Lake stated the need for residents to be proactive in the fight to keep area youth safe. He further encouraged others to put down their “position and titles” to bring a sense of unanimity to the community.
“We are here because we are demanding peace. There has to be a change we can believe in and if we are willing to work and sweat to make this happen, we don’t have to see children dying before their time,” said Lake.
“Lives are too valuable to be lost. It’s going to take a concerted effort for everybody to work together to bring change we can all believe in because it is not God’s will for our young people to die before their time.”
Longtime resident Shanice Wallace told the South Florida Times that she has lived in Overtown for more than 20 years and has seen more young people die in her community than she thought she would see in one lifetime.
“I can’t tell you the number of mornings I’ve woken up to hear ‘So-and-so’s son just got shot,’ or have been awakened at night by the actual gun shots,” said Wallace. “It used to be a time when we were told to prepare ourselves for when the day comes that we would have to take care of your parents or elderly family members, but our seniors are outliving this generation of youth. It’s a sad time and we need to do something about it.”
La’shawn Naylor, a mother of four who recently lost her youngest child to gun violence, said that what is taking place in the community is sad because the lives that are being taken are children of those she knows, are friends with or are distant relatives. Her 20-year-old daughter Kiana Smith, she said, was killed on Nov. 20, just one week after Brandon Lloyd, and the families are very close. According to Miami police spokeswoman Keandra Simmons, officers res-ponded to a call of shots fired in an Overtown apartment complex and found Smith with gunshot wounds that resulted in her untimely demise. Smith was not the intended target and police have not suggested that the two shootings were related.
As Naylor publicly recounted the events following her receiving the news of her daughter’s death, she publicly urged the community to come together through love and effort to bring the criminals to justice.
“When I got the call about my daughter, it hurt so bad that I couldn’t even cry no more, the pain goes so deep. I don’t eat or sleep at night. All I can do is pray that her soul made it in,” said Naylor. “I want everybody to stick to your families and tell them that you love them. Don’t wait until you have to look down at the casket or identify their body. They can be here today and gone today. Love them while they’re here; respect them while they’re here.”
HOW TO LIVE
In an effort to provide solutions as to how to improve the quality of life in the area, Marvin Lue, senior pastor of Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, stated that the reason young people are killing each other is because they haven’t figured out how to live. He offered what he called “the four practices” that residents can use to help reestablish order in the community.
“I am a product of the ghetto. I know what the game was supposed to be about and I know what it is now,” said Lue. “But the game was never intended for us to lose lives. We are not only killing each other, we are killing ourselves. What we need to do is to first, love ourselves. Then, understand that you are important. Next, acknowledge your victories.
And finally, know that each person is equal and essential.”
‘WE HAVE THE POWER’
Lue further encouraged residents to take stock in their community and be a part of positive changes as opposed to relocating out of frustration. “In the middle of all we’re going through, the light can come on, but we have to be the ones to flip the switch.
“Getting out of this lifestyle doesn’t mean we move to Broward, Star Island, Jacksonville, Tallahassee or Orlando. It means we change the mentality of our people,” said Lue. “Remember n—— are ignorant, but Black people are essential. We have the power to change ourselves.”