Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America members brought National Gun Violence Awareness/Wear Orange Weekend events to Clarksdale. Mayor Chuck Espy signed a proclamation on Thursday recognizing National Gun Violence Awareness/Wear Orange Weekend from June 2 to 4. Mothers Lekitha Hill, Shirley Meeks, and Belinda Edwards from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America were with Espy.
Hill’s son, Dayeveon, was murdered through gun violence in 2017, one week after signing to play football for Pearl River Community College. He was a senior at Clarksdale High School at the time. A “We Can End Gun Violence” rally with food and entertainment was held at the Delta Blues Museum Stage in downtown Clarksdale on Saturday afternoon.
Lekitha Hill talked about her journey after Dayeveon died and how she got to know Meeks. “I met her a year after I lost my son,” Hill said. Meeks said it was the first time the “We Can End Gun Violence” rally was in Clarksdale. She talked about the importance of seeking therapy after a tragedy occurs. “You’re not crazy,” she said. “You just need someone to talk to, to mentor you.”
Wear Orange Weekend began in 2015, honoring Hadiya Pendelton, who was killed on a playground in Chicago, Ill., at age 15. “Her classmates decided to make it a worldwide thing to honor all victims that have lost their lives to gun violence,” Meeks said. Meeks encouraged children to stop using guns. “Send a strong message,” she said. “Put the guns down. We’re tired of losing our young babies to gun violence.”
Speakers, music, and food were part of the rally. Therapist Jacqueline Lambert from Shelby said a prayer. Dr. May Leflore, also a therapist, discussed the importance of counseling. She said people go to the doctor for issues such as blood pressure and cholesterol, but mental issues also need to be treated. “Many of us, at some point in our lives, are going to deal with mental illness, whether it’s PTSD, post-traumatic stress, major depression, or whatever may be the anxiety,” she said. “You need to seek help and not do it on your own.”
Local political candidates in the upcoming Aug. 8 Democratic Primary shared their thoughts on ways to handle gun violence. “When we arrest someone for committing a crime, they go to jail,” he said. “But our courts and judges have been given the ability to reduce their bonds.” “Twenty years ago, you didn’t see that. You committed a crime, you didn’t get a low bond. The bond didn’t get lowered when you committed crimes like murder and aggravated assault.” When bonds are lowered, Jones said, people are out on the streets to kill again. “That doesn’t make sense, does it?” he said. “Well, that makes our jobs really hard.” Jones said bonds are not lowered in areas such as Southaven and Oxford, and it could be that way in Coahoma County. “It’s up to our judges, the circuit judges,” he said. Jones challenged everyone at the event to speak up when they hear about bonds of someone accused of gun violence being lowered.
District Attorney candidate Michael Carr outlined four things he would do to lower gun violence. Carr said there should be a system where the grand jury turns over more often, the district attorney’s office needs to win more of its cases, work with federal authorities, and be present in the community. “I’m going to be someone who comes to events like this, meets people in the classroom, not the courtroom, somebody who’s visible, somebody you can come to and say my son was killed or my daughter was shot,” he said. “I have an open door. I will come, and I will talk to you about your case. We will work on your case and see what we can do to close that door for you to try to get you some justice.”
Chancery Clerk candidate Tarra Slack offered her support and prayers to everyone trying to make things better. “I do have a son, and in the world we live in today, everybody walks in, not necessarily in terror, but with the thought that something could happen any day,” she said. “So I do carry you all with me in my prayers, and I also carry our community in my prayers so we could make things better here in our town.”