Just days after 8-year-old Jada Page died from a gunshot wound to the head in a drive-by shooting, funeral home director Lori Hadley Davis embalmed her niece’s tiny body.
On Monday, just one day shy of what would have been Jada’s 9th birthday, instead of celebrating at Rapids Water Park as planned, Davis and the rest of Jada’s family, along with hundreds of supporters, rallied in northwest Miami-Dade under a persistent rainstorm, demanding that the shooters turn themselves in.
“How do you stand over your niece’s body and prepare it for the ground?” said Rebecca Vaughns, a local activist and poet, referring to Davis, who wept beside her.
“How do you do it? How do you do it with your eyes open?”
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Just before 5 p.m. on Aug. 28, Jada and her father, James Page, 32, were in his Northwest Miami-Dade front yard — on their way to the movies — when they were both shot. Jada, who stood near the front porch, was struck in the back of the head; her father, in the chest. Jada was pronounced brain dead and died two days later.
“You’re killing innocent kids; harmless, full of life, full of joy. For the coward, whoever you are, you, who pulled the trigger, turn yourself in for a sense of peace,” said Santonio “Blaze” Carter, who lost his 6-year-old son, King Carter, to gun violence in February.
“Me and my wife had to have my son’s birthday at a graveyard. We had five cases of balloons and ice cream at a graveyard, praying that another family won’t have to endure this pain. Yet we’re standing here with Jada Page’s birthday tomorrow. I’m tired of being Martin Luther King. It’s time to be Malcolm X.”
Rally organizer and activist Valencia Gunder — who is also Jada’s godmother — said the family is convinced that “the killers, or those who know who the killers are, are still out there.”
“The police are trying, but we are asking the community to give us answers too,” Gunder said. “I hate to admit it, but we need to start doing some self-evaluations. Certain individuals know and we need them to come forward and start talking. We know somebody knows something.”
I can’t even form a complete sentence that makes sense. My heart has been totally ripped out. I don’t know how to answer questions or how to function. You hear about it on the news, but there’s nothing like hitting home.
Lisa Brown, Jada’s grandmother
A sea of umbrellas could be seen a long distance away, as rain trickled down people’s faces. In the crowd were supporters of all ages, carrying signs with powerful messages.
A toddler held a sign that said “Let the children live.” A teen clenched a poster board that said “Stop killing our kids.”
Jada and her cousin, Iyana Tutson, had recently started the fourth grade together. Jada, her sister and parents were staying at Tutson’s home as they prepared to buy a house. Tutson’s mother, Khadija Brown, said adjusting to Jada’s absence “is going to be hard because they woke up together, went to school together, did everything together.”
“We were very close cousins, and I don’t know how, but I really miss her,” Tutson, 9, said. “If she could hear me, I would tell her, ‘I hope you’re having fun up there and just know that I’m still with you.’ ”
Ronald Fulton, uncle of Trayvon Martin — the unarmed 17-year-old who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in 2012 — told the Miami Herald that it’s “time for this nonsense to stop.”
“It’s time to act,” he said. “I’m listening to our community come up with some solutions. We need to be a lot more vigilant in what we’re doing and keep bringing more solutions to the table.”
Gunder chimed in.
“We are asking that parents start being more accountable. Parents, start checking your child’s room,” she said. “Most of the time you’ll see that children under the age of 18 are committing these crimes. We want our communities to start being accountable for one another.”
“Know something, say something!” one person yelled. “Flip the mattresses.”
Since Jada was shot — as she lay gravely wounded — family members took to social media praying for justice and a miracle. Jada’s age and innocence, along with her family’s powerful pleas and the senselessness of a drive-by shooting, had inspired the hashtags #prayforjada and #justice4jada. It also gave birth to the “Save Our Queens” movement after King Carter’s death sparked “Save Our Kings.”
“Before she was pronounced dead, I whispered in her ear I was gonna fight for her,” Gunder said. “Because ‘Justice for Jada’ looks like children being able to play outside and go to the movies and enjoy their birthdays with their families.”
Jada’s mother, Rosalind Dominique Brown, sobbed as she grasped the microphone. She implored those with information about the shooting to come forward.
“Please give us a sense of peace. Please, my baby turns 9 tomorrow,” Brown said. “I got to celebrate my baby’s birthday without her. I can’t sleep at night. She was only 8. If you know something, please, I’m begging y’all, say something.”
Jada’s grandmother Lisa Brown described her “as a girl full of joy, full of life. She loved dancing, music, girl stuff. She just always wanted to play.”
Police are offering a reward of $25,000 to anyone with information that could lead to an arrest. Anyone with information can call Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers 305-471-TIPS (8477). A funeral will take place on Saturday.
Under a gray, cloudy sky, activist Rebecca Vaughns addressed hundreds of drenched supporters.
“So again, we stand out here in the rain, but it’s deeper than that. Because these raindrops that are falling are tears from Jada’s eyes and all the other little boys and girls whose lives were taken from their families far too soon. Y’all think it’s just raining because it’s hurricane season. No, angels have feelings, too.”