For every two American soldiers killed so far this year in the Iraq war, one person has been killed in Pittsburgh. It’s no secret that a large number of these local homicide victims have been African-Americans, accounting for 45 of the 64 deaths.
|LOOKING FOR ANSWERS—Moné Parker tells the crowd about the loss of her grandson.
One Vision One Life, an organization working to curb these numbers, has been a pillar in the community after every homicide in recent years. After the death of 5-year-old Jaylon Johnson-Floyd, the youngest of all the 2009 victims, they took the lead at attempting to wake up the city to the violence in the Black community.
“There’s some in the audience who have heard this and understand this and there’s some who this just goes in one ear and out the other,” El Gray said at a vigil on Oct. 1. “It’s all about all of us, but primarily it’s about saving these babies and providing a safe community.”
Jaylon was shot to death in the living room of his Northview Heights home at 5 a.m. Sept. 26. Also in the room during the shooting were the boy’s aunt, her 7-month-old child and the aunt’s friend, 18-year-old David Hipps.
While early reports indicated Jaylon was shot while sleeping, it has been recently claimed that Hipps, who is believed to be the assailant’s intended target, used him as a “shield.” Hipps was shot in the legs, but no one else in the room was injured.
|A MOTHER’S LOVE—The crowd gathers to pray around Jaylon’s mother sitting in the chair.
“I had heard, and I don’t know if this is accurate either that he was used as a shield,” Gray said. “It stands to reason that if the perpetrator was after the 18-year-old, the 18-year-old was shot in the legs—one has to deduce for themselves and come up with something reasonable.”
The victim’s grandmother, Moné Parker, denied these claims and said the boy’s aunt, who was present in the room, denied them as well. She also said no one in the house was able to see the shooter and the family does not know if there was one shooter or two.
“I don’t know if it was someone who was looking for the friend who was with her (Hipps), but my feeling is what (Hipps) had done to you was not done at my daughter’s house,” Parker said. “You should’ve waited instead of coming into someone’s home and destroying a family like you did because it’s really going to take us a long long time to get over this.”
Police reported that the suspect struck the 18-year-old victim in the legs and shot Jaylon in the chest before fleeing from the residence. No arrests have been made and a motive has not been determined.
A $5,000 reward is being offered to anyone who has information regarding the homicide. Parker said she is hoping the perpetrator comes forward.
“So many lives have been shattered. So many people have been so severely affected by what’s been done,” Parker said. “His birthday is Sunday, his whole life would’ve been ahead of him. It’s just senseless.”
Speakers at an Oct. 1 vigil addressed a mostly female crowd in the Northview Heights public housing community. They called for the community to speak out against the perpetrators of violence in their neighborhoods.
“We need to call the coward out who killed this sister’s son. There’s a lot of stuff we tolerate that we shouldn’t tolerate,” said Will Thompkins. “It’s about protecting these young kids. Just as we party hard, just as we support our Steelers, we need to work just as hard to keep our brothers and sisters alive.”
“Hold your head up and stand for something. We can’t make it without one another. Back in the day we stood together,” Rev. Le Saunders said. “If we can’t get along together, we might as well die as fools. Don’t let his life be lost in vain.”
One woman at the vigil, Yvonne Brown, who has also lost several family members in Northview Heights, said she is looking to local government for a solution to this tragic epidemic.
In a Sept. 30 press conference, mayoral candidate Franco Dok Harris presented two approaches he would take to fight the devastation. The first was to increase the number of small businesses in local neighborhoods and the second was to bring police officers out of their cars for a stronger presence in the community.
“What we saw during the downward spiral towards violence was businesses closing,” Harris said. “It’s about saying to our neighborhoods, we’re not going to ignore you anymore.”
“By getting our police out of their cars and moving back towards building relationships, you help build trust and you have to do that to defeat the fear,” Harris said.
These approaches are similar to those proposed by Democratic candidates Carmen Robinson and Councilman Patrick Dowd in the May primary.