Following the fatal shooting at the Van Dyke Houses that left a nine-year-old orphaned, community organizations from Brownsville and around New York gathered at the Van Dyke Community Center to support the residents.
One of the speakers at the vigil was Kathleen, another gun violence survivor who also lost her mom at 9-years-old.
“My mother was killed on February the 2nd, 1966. That man went to her job early in the morning and shot her 27 times,” Kathleen said through the mic as she wiped tears off of her eyes.
“Do you know what it’s like to be nine years old and grow up not having a mother around? Do you know what it’s like to be split from your sisters and brothers, living in a different state?” Kathleen asked the crowd. “I still live with the hurt and pain, every February the 2nd and February the 7th, the day we buried her. I still live with that hurt within me. I hurt every day and I wish my mom was here.”
Kathleen talked about how back then, there were no resources for kids like her from the community or government. Now she is happy to be part of the community and be there for a 9-year-old that lost her loved ones.
RISE organized the event with OPGV, the Brownsville Consortium, and other community partners to heal the community from traumatic experiences and provide resources.
Hailey Nolasco, 32, Director of RISE moderated the event, told Bklyner, “For us, it’s really important to come not only today but to continue to have a sustained effort in the community.”
She also mentioned that RISE was there to let people know if they are dealing with domestic violence, then there is help and people can reach out to RISE.
“We are an organization that works to prevent gun intimate partner violence-related homicide,” Hailey said. “We work to really look at the intersection of gun violence and domestic violence. So we are here to offer those support to help to prevent that in the future and also offer the help and therapeutic supports that may be needed to the community at this time.”
Another organization that was present was Elite Learners, a community-based organization that provides housing, job, food resources, and mental health counseling and mentors youth. At the event, they provided food for people to eat.
Bklyner spoke to one of the members of Elite Learners.
“Unfortunately, earlier this week, there was a triple homicide and suicide in the Van Dyke Houses,” said Taheerah Gilreath, Director of operations for Elite Learners. “We are just fully aware that it’s a stressful time for everyone, and you know, especially those probably suffering from mental health or even financial issues, and we are just trying to bring resources to a central location. So that everyone can come out and know that there is support and help if they need it.”
Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker of District 41 were present, along with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.
“I am so happy to be with you, to be a witness, and to be part of this circle,” said Yvette Clarke. “But I am extremely sad about the circumstances that brought us together. I am extremely sad that we have a child orphaned right within our own community.” Since the 9-year-old girl lost all her loved ones and her protectors, she said, Brownsville will have to step in and be there for her.
Councilmember Alicka Samuel also spoke at the vigil and said that Brownsville had been neglected for decades.
“But what I am looking at right here reminds me of the model that Jockle used to say all the time, ‘hope is inside,’ right?” said Councilwoman Samuel. “And what that means ‘hope is inside’ is that everything that we need is right here already, inside of our community. So all the organizations, all of the people that work at these organizations. Everyone that shows up in time of need to heal as a people as a community is already within us.”
Assemblywoman, Latrice Walker, spoke at the event after a prayer for the victims’ family was held.
“We might suffer in silence, but today we saying to all of the people of Van Dyke houses and the larger Brownsville community that we hear you. We love you. We see you, we are here for you,” said Walker. She also mentioned that she also has a 9-years-old daughter and parents just want what’s best for their children. “But today, what was best for little India was not what happened in her family.”
Candles were handed out to every attendee of the event and lit; followed by a moment of silence. Afterward, balloons were released in honor of the family.