CommunityNews

Makiyah Wilson’s Death Sparks Heated Discussion

Jermonie Chaney struggled to stop the flow of tears as she returned to the Clay Terrace public housing complex in Northeast where just over a week ago, a hail of bullets suddenly rained down upon a gathering of neighborhood families and their friends as they enjoyed a hot summer night, resulting in non-life-threatening injuries to four and the death of 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson.
“It’s not safe here anymore and you have to always watch your back,” said Chaney, 19, as she attended a recent candlelight vigil for Makiyah, held just steps away from the spot where she died after four still-unidentified gunmen opened fire for reasons still unknown before disappearing as quickly as they appeared into the night.
“I just want to see something change,” Chaney said, recounting memories of her encounters with Makiyah and her family – well-known among the inhabitants of the Clay Terrace courtyard. “We used to hang out in [Makiyah’s] house all the time – everybody would be there and it was really cool.”
Following the young girl’s death, District residents, community leaders and prominent artist have led the way in speaking out on social media platforms, addressing what they describe as an ongoing, blatant disregard for those who live in D.C.’s more blighted neighborhoods.
But for those who live in or near Clay Terrace, there seems to be more apparent consensus about the traumatizing effect of violence on young people and the necessity to end the flow of killings in a city where homicides have increased by 47 percent this year and where three children, including Makiyah, have been shot during the month of July alone.
And so, last Saturday night, mourners of various ages braved torrential downpours to pay their respects as a group of mental health professionals stood by prepared to assist the emotionally distraught. The front stairs on which Makiyah played had been showered with flowers, teddy bears, large pink balloons spelling out her name and a multi-colored painting.
Throughout much of the night, with Metropolitan Police Department officials posted nearby, guests lit candles, read scriptures and poems, shared memories and broke into song. One attendee of the vigil, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (Ward 8) offered his condolences during the period set aside for remarks.
One woman who’s known Makiyah’s mother for almost 10 years said she couldn’t help but feel sorrow.
“It’s sad to see our young kids go out so soon,” said B.B., a resident of Northeast who requested that her name be withheld and who added that she’s since imposed an even earlier curfew for her own daughter, 19 and to whom she know inundates with texts about her whereabouts.
“The violence needs to stop,” B.B. added. “We’re always against each other and we’re losing our kids to the streets. They are scared. Everywhere you go, you have to watch out. I always tell my daughter check in and call me, send a photo, and be in the house at a certain time because it’s dangerous.”
Makiyah, who family members say she only wanted ice cream after returning from a nearby swimming pool, died from a gunshot wound to the chest. She now counts among a bevy of D.C. gun violence victims under the age of 18, including Zaire Kelly, whose family attended Saturday’s gathering.
But the violence would not end despite calls for peace when during the morning of Makiyah’s vigil, including one teenaged male injured by gunfire in front of the Capper Recreation Center in Southeast and another teenager, Jermaine Richards, 17 – shot and killed in Northeast in the sixth of seven shootings in the District in a 24-hour period.
One church leader in Northeast had this to say: “We have to take a better approach as a people to stop doing this to each other. Just taking the guns away won’t change things,” said the Rev. Quantrill Smith, pastor of Word Movers Church in Northeast.
“We should have more gatherings and awareness about what’s going on in the community. We need more people being informed about the repercussions of their actions, so they can have second thoughts.”

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