On the 19th birthday of Sherdavia Jenkins, a cluster of lavender and orange balloons — one for each year of her life — was released into the skies above a park by her family and friends, just across the street from the Liberty Square housing projects where she was killed 10 years ago. Sherdavia was 9 years old, a gifted student and chess player, when she was shot in front of her home by a stray bullet on July 1, 2006.
The event Tuesday morning at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park was meant to mark her birth, along with a solemn remembrance of other children lost to gun violence and an urgent call to action to make neighborhoods safe. Elected leaders, pastors and community activists all spoke about the latest tragedy a decade after Sherdavia’s case: the shooting death of 6-year-old King Carter, killed last month in a Northwest Miami-Dade apartment complex on his way to buy candy.
“In Sherdavia’s lifetime, 108 children were lost to homicide, that is 12 every year,” said Gene Tinnie, a community activist and founding member of the Kuumba Artists Collective, which helped organize the event. “You have to ask yourself: What is the health of a community that loses a child every month?”
For the parents of Sherdavia, her birthday brought back a flood of bittersweet memories and wishful thinking of what Sherdavia’s future might have been. The little girl, who had only been in summer camp just a week when she was killed, had scored the highest FCAT score in her elementary school. She was going to be a fourth-grader that coming school year and had told her parents she wanted to be a lawyer or a graphic designer.
“My baby would have been 19 years old. She would have been a sophomore in college. She would have been the same as she was as a child: sweet and easy to get along with,” said her father, David Jenkins. “She was her own person.”
The program ended with the group releasing 19 balloons in Sherdavia’s memory at the park on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 12th Avenue. Jenkins released the 20th balloon for the other children killed by guns — 316 deaths in just over a decade.
“We come to this park twice a year. On Sherdavia’s birthday and on the day she died,” said Sherrone Jenkins, her mother. “I don’t like coming here because she should be here. She should be alive.”