Amid chilly and rainy conditions, Liberty City officials, residents and community activists joined together for a celebration and remembrance ceremony to honor the legacy of a little girl who lost her life to gun violence nearly four years ago.
On Monday, March 22, a city of Miami mini-park located on the corner of Northwest 12th Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. was dedicated as a tribute to little Sherdavia Jenkins, who was killed on July 1, 2006 after she was struck by a stray bullet while she played in front of her home in the Liberty Square housing projects. The event, on what would have been her 13th birthday, introduced the community to the newly renamed “Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park.”
“This park symbolizes the notion that the City of Miami realizes that the blood on these streets cannot and should not go unnoticed,” said community activist Renita Holmes. “This is a community that cares and our kids need more safe spaces to exuberate life and safety.”
Organized by the city of Miami, Kuumba Artists Collective and the Liberty City Trust, the commemoration opened with a Native American tribal blessing of the land by Queen Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, followed by an uplifting sermon by Elder Jerdy Mitchell from Church of Christ Written in Heaven.
Sherdavia’s parents, David and Sherrone, were then presented with a poster-sized portrait of their daughter from event organizer Gene Tinnie of Kuumba Artists Collective, who was accompanied by community activist Georgia Ayers.
Tinnie told the South Florida Times that he decided to organize the event after speaking to David Jenkins about having a public celebration. “It was particularly meaningful and gratifying to have Mrs. Georgia Jones Ayers, a family member herself, join the gathering, and to have the participation of Rev. Miller and Rev. Strange, pastors of two of the nearby churches, who met for the first time on this occasion,” said Tinnie.
“We brought the community together and were able to overcome the city's budget constraints to produce such an event by the same principle that we each use to overcome our own individual and family budget constraints; where there is a will, there is a way,” Tinnie said of the event that received funding from the Kuumba Artists Collective and the Liberty City Trust.
Sherdavia’s mother, Sherrone, said of the park, “I’m very proud. The sign is beautiful and I’m happy about the park because it gives other children a place to go outside and play. I just wish she had been here to enjoy it because it’s not right for a 7, 8, or 9 year old child to lose their life.”
The grass-roots efforts also included the creation of signage that was unveiled during the event. The sign includes a picture of the smiling honor student along with a rendering of the master plan for the park, which will include improved landscaping, benches, artwork and a chess table.
Tinnie described the signage as a means of ensuring that Sherdavia and the other children who were killed by gun violence are not forgotten and that their deaths were not in vain.
“It cannot be emphasized enough that each of these children was an important human being whose life mattered; they were not just statistics of passing headlines or disposable lives,” said Tinnie.
Alison Austin of Belafonte Tacolcy, an avid supporter of green spaces, told the South Florida Times that the existence of the “peace park” is commendable, but that it also needs to be connected to youth as an indicator of how change can be achieved through the proper utilization and appreciation of nature.
“[The park] can only do what it is designed to do if we can combine education and awareness to go along with it. This is the first step, but our city has got to be involved in making sure that the people who live in this community understand the values of peace and how things come together as a result of us feeling it, believing it and wanting it,” said Austin.
To close out the ceremony, City of Miami Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II formally dedicated the land to Sherdavia while referring to the location as a “monument and remembrance” for a special little girl. He presented the Jenkins family with an official proclamation signed by City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regaldo.
“We hereby proclaim Monday, the 22nd day of March in the year 2010, as Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park Day,” read Dunn.
When asked what she would do with the City’s proclamation, Sherrone replied; “I have a corner where her certificates, awards and art work are and I’m going to put it there.
It will give me another thing to look at and smile about when I think about Sherdavia.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park