White balloons representing the county's 19 2011 homicide victims drifted silently into the sky at a vigil Saturday, their strings slipping from the fingers of the loved ones there to honor them.
White balloons representing the county’s 19 2011 homicide victims drifted silently into the sky at a vigil Saturday, their strings slipping from the fingers of the loved ones there to honor them.
The anti-crime community organization Taking Back Pine Bluff had spent weeks organizing the event, only to have to unexpectedly add another homicide victim’s name to the list after Kenneth Davis, 46, was fatally shot Friday on University Drive.
“We wanted today to be a memorial for these victims, to let their families and the community know that we haven’t forgotten them,” said Angela Guynn, one of the event organizers.
At the same time, the afternoon the participants spent in the Big Rec building at Townsend Park was filled with family-friendly games, fun, food, dancing, musical performances, door prizes and socializing.
John James of Taking Back Pine Bluff said that one of the organization’s goals is to bring people together to plant the seeds of a crime-free future. The more people get to know their neighbors, James said, the more likely they are to watch out for them and to think twice before harming someone who — in such a small community — is likely a family member of someone they know.
“My one big thing is that I want people to see that someone is fighting on their behalf, that there are positive things going on in this community,” James said.
James said the group’s goal is to organize one social event a month for the next year as part of their comprehensive action plan for effecting change in the community. They will also continue to rally on the street corners and facilitate discussion and plan activities through their “Taking Pine Bluff Back” Facebook page and a planned upcoming website.
Marnell Ashley attended the event to support the effort and honor his brother, Walter Ashley Jr., 39, who was killed in a shooting outside a Pine Bluff nightclub on Nov. 13.
Marnell Ashley said that his initial reaction was anger when he heard that another murder had occurred on Friday. It was especially troublesome, he said, because of the similarities to the circumstances of his brother’s death.
“He was minding his own business, just like my brother,” Ashley said. “He had kids, was active in the community. They both got shot because of things that they had nothing to do with.”
The accused killer in Walter Ashley’s death is 18 and the accused killer in Davis’ death is 26. Marnell Ashley said it is disturbing to think that such young men could choose to take a life.
“It’s just nonsense. You can’t get a life back once you take it,” Ashley said. “I hope it (the vigil) sends a positive message to everyone so we can stop some of this violence and nonsense.”
The Rev. Patrick Lockett spoke to the group, encouraging them to work to foster a greater respect for people and a greater respect for people’s property. He urged parents to keep a close eye on young people and the forces influencing them. Lockett said that we should be our brother’s keeper by keeping an eye out for our neighbors and our community.
“The Bible lets us know that where there is unity, there is strength and there is power,” Lockett said. “I believe [change] is going to be fostered on the shoulders of the citizens if we’re really going to take back Pine Bluff.”