ST. LOUIS - A vigil to honor the memory of all St. Louis children killed by violence this year was also a call to action. One of the organizers of Wednesday night’s gathering said there’s nothing more to say.
“We know exactly where the neighborhoods are, we know exactly where the blocks are, we know exactly what’s needed,” said Better Family Life’s James Clark. “It’s time for us to give this crisis the attention that it demands.”
The vigil was held in the parking lot of Herzog Elementary, the north St. Louis school 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson attended. She was shot and killed following a football jamboree at Soldan High School Friday night. Her father is frustrated over the notion that telling police who shot and killed his daughter is considered snitching. He said, “A little girl gets shot and killed and no one comes forward because that’s considered snitching. That’s not snitching.”
The City of St. Louis in conjunction with CrimeStoppers has already announced $25,000 rewards are up for grabs for anyone with information that helps police solve the recent murders of children. Mayor Lyda Krewson has stated there have been some tips but not enough.
State Rep. Chris Carter called on the state to send more resources into St. Louis. There were also calls for neighbors to be more involved in their communities and parents to be more responsible.
“You have to be that voice of reason,” said Mary Norwood. “You’re the mother, you’re the father, you’re the first teacher, you’re the role model.”
Norwood was the grandmother of Xavier Usanga. The 7-year-old boy was shot and killed while standing in his own yard. She said, “In my day we took bricks and sticks and we fought. Today when you pick up a gun and you shoot at somebody if you miss that somebody it’s got to go somewhere.”
Charles Shelton lost his cousin Jason Eberhart to violence. The 16-year-old was recently shot and killed in the Carr Square neighborhood. Shelton joined Better Family Life’s Neighborhood Net program to help keep his community safer. The program organizes volunteers to stand at area bus stops when St. Louis children are heading to and returning home from school.
“I’ve been able to basically patrol my neighborhood and go out and see what’s going on in my neighborhood,” said Shelton.
He believes those actions are an important step to turning the tide on a wave of violence that’s now gaining national attention. Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact Better Family Life for more information.