In a rallying cry for change, demonstrators converged in Wyandanch Park calling attention to gun violence in Black and brown communities while remembering lives lost.
“People of color do not get the same exposure, the same publicity, the same funding when our kids are killed and we are standing up to let the community know we are tired,” said Felice Holder, 62, an organizer carrying a portrait of Yusef Staine, who was shot dead on a Long Island Rail Road train in Ronkonkoma in February.
Staine was spotted talking to the gunman before the shooting happened but no one has been caught. Staine’s mother could not attend the rally, Holder said.
“This is to help other communities of color. Because it doesn’t just happen here in Wyandanch, this is happening in Brentwood, Bay Shore, Amityville, Bayport, Bellport,” Holder said.
Chants of “wake up, wake up, this is our fight, too,” and “save our streets,” echoed down Straight Path as marchers pounded the pavement before ending at the park.
Mothers wore photos of young people whose lives were cut short.
Shenee Johnson, 48, of Moriches, said her son, Kedrick Ali Morrow Jr., was a 17-year-old honor student preparing to graduate high school when he was shot dead senselessly in Queens on May 15, 2010.
“Don’t forget our kids. We don’t get much media attention but we want to keep their memories alive. We live with the trauma … Put more money into gun violence prevention,” Johnson said. “We need to prevent this so we don’t need to put our sons on a T-shirt.”
Morrow Jr. was set to begin St. John’s University on a scholarship in fall 2010, she said.
Devon Toney hoped to serve as a role model for reform, after serving time for a murder he said he committed in 1996.
“Who are we talking to,” Toney, 46, blared. “Our young men,” the crowd roared back.
“When I grew up, I was trapped into a system that taught me if I needed something go out and get it the best way I can and that was usually drug activity or boosting or something … everybody was out for themselves," Toney later told Newsday.
“Today, I’m out here to show that I’m out here for you.”
Indiana Bumpers, 56, of Wyandanch, said her son, Malik Stoddart, was gunned down in 2016, two days before starting Monroe College. He left behind a son, who is now 5 years old.
“Now he is growing up asking who killed his father and I can’t answer those questions because I don’t even know myself,” Bumpers said. “It’s been six years and they still haven’t solved my son’s crime and it’s very frustrating.” She believes there were eight witnesses, she said, but no one has come forward with information.
Bumpers, who founded the nonprofit Malik’s Path to honor her son’s memory, helped to lead the rally.