On July 1, 2006, David Jenkins saw the most hideous sight of his life: police tape around his house, his nine-year-old daughter, dead, by the front door.
Twelve years ago, while playing on the front stoop of her Liberty City home, Sherdavia Jenkins was shot. She died in front of her brother, sister and a best friend. She was the victim of a bullet gone astray, one of more than 100 Miami-Dade children killed over a 10-year period.
On a hot Sunday afternoon, more than a dozen community members gathered to honor Sherdavia’s life and the lives of hundreds of children who have faced a similar fate. They did so in Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park, a small park in Liberty city that sits across from an empty lot and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
“This got my daughter’s name on it,” said David Jenkins, Sherdavia’s father. “I take pride in it.”
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In the years since Sherdavia’s death, locals have gathered in this park twice a year, once on her birthday, March 22, and the other on July 1, the day of her death.
Sunday’s event was a small gathering, perhaps smaller than the organizers’ expected, but it did not dampen the attendees’ spirits. Activist and community member Elliott Jones said the park has been a place of pride for Liberty City. The park’s mural, a colorful depiction of Sherdavia’s life and of the community’s diversity, was especially meaningful, Jones said.
As residents looked at the mural during its painting, many cried, Jones said. Prominent on the mural are images of Sherdavia playing on the computer and one of her, as a baby, sucking her thumb. One hundred and eight stars, each one signifying the death of a Miami-Dade child during her lifetime, sprawl across the image. Between 2006 and 2015, 316 teens and children, more than 30 per year, were lost to gunfire.
“Those stars lost, who knows what would become?” asked Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns, a Miami-native and poet. “If you do the math, that’s 12 a year, one a month. What society tolerates this?”
The residents gathered in the same place that many have gathered before. Gene Tinnie, a resident of Edison, said the park has become an epicenter for community action.
“When Trayvon got murdered, everyone almost instinctively knew, this is where to hold the rally,” Tinnie said. “These children did not die in vain. The community is resolved to solve this.”
As the attendees gathered in a circle and held hands, there was very little surrounding commotion. On Sherdavia’s birthday, Vaughns said, the park is filled with the sight of balloons, the sound of guest speakers, and the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs. On Sunday, the mantra was quality over quantity. A pastor delivered a short prayer; David Jenkins reflected on the loss of his child; Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, member of the Florida House of the Representative sat the time of Sherdavia’s death, described the search for the killer.
The group preached hopefulness above all else and an end to unnecessary violence. It was a somber occasion, but not a morbid one, Tinnie said.
As the event came to a close, raindrops began to fall.
“That’s her! That’s her teardrops!” Vaughns exclaimed.
“Tears of joy, tears of joy,” Bendross-Mindingall said.