Rickia Isaac was only 5 years old when she was killed by a stray bullet – on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday – as she walked home from the parade with her babysitter on Jan. 20, 1997.
So ended a young life whose promise would never be fulfilled. And so much for Dr. King’s teachings of peace, love, nonviolence and respect for life.
Two months after that shocking tragedy, Sherdavia Jenkins was born. She became a bright, popular and talented student with an extraordinary gift for the game of chess.
On July 1, 2006, at age 9, Sherdavia’s life was ended, also by a stray bullet, as she played in front of her home, the 16th child to die from violence that year. Indeed, in her brief lifetime, at least 107 other children are known to have been lost to homicides in Miami-Dade County alone.
This year, as we approached what would have been Sherdavia’s 17th birthday on March 22, our community was again violated by the shooting death of Keimouria Gardner not far from where Sherdavia’s family now lives.
And that came only weeks after three girls were shot and wounded in the Liberty Square area where Sherdavia lost her life. We are forced to ask what kind of society does not value the lives of its children and allows such senseless murder of its girls and young women. It is not the society of our traditional Ancestors and we must determine if this is to be the society of our future generations, if indeed we have any to speak of.
Complaints or demonizing the perpetrators of these killings will not solve the problem. The solution lies in reclaiming our souls and the wisdom of our Ancestors, living as a village in which every child is everyone’s child.
It is easier said than done, especially in hard economic circumstances, but the value of even the smallest acts of kindness, caring and guidance toward our younger generations cannot be overestimated.
This situation was not created overnight and will not be solved overnight but, as the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
Dinizulu Gene Tinnie is a Miami-based artist, art educator and historian. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org