HOLLY HILL — Family members and friends of the four people shot to death execution style near Holly Hill on July 15, 2015 were among those who spoke at a rally calling for an end to gun violence on March 5 at Gilmore Park.
A suspect has not been arrested in the killings. Those who died were Alexia Perry, 14; Shamekia Sanders, 17; Krystal Hutto, 28; and Jerome Butler, 50. An 8-year-old was also wounded in the attack at an Old State Road residence.
Jasmine Marshae Clark, cousin of the late Shamekia Sanders, organized the Stop the Violence Rally. She tearfully remembered her cousin, noting the two of them had been looking forward to their upcoming prom and graduation.
Maytha Green, speaking on behalf of Shamekia Sanders’ family, said, “Shamekia was passionate about going to the 12th grade and graduating. She wanted to become a chef. She wanted me to teach her how I stewed chicken.”
“The school does not teach you how to behave. We (parents) tell you what is right and we tell you what is wrong,” she added. “We must teach our children another way of handling anger.”
Green said she would like to see conflict resolution classes available to all children so they can learn how to handle problems and stay away from violence.
Clarissa Clark also spoke, stressing that the community needs to “get involved and know what’s going on in your own house.”
“There is no such thing in my house as a room I can’t go in. There’s no such thing as drawers I can’t go under. I look under the bed. I look everywhere because it’s my house,” she said. “Those cars are my cars and, if they’re in my driveway and they’re yours, they’re still my cars.”
Clark added, “Okay. I don’t believe in so much privacy that we’re going to just let our children do anything and not know what’s going on. ... Our African-American males are being killed by foolishness ... “
She underscored the importance of citizens not being afraid to notify someone if they are aware of criminal activity that is going on.
“Alert someone like the authorities,” Clark said.
She said over 33,000 Americans are killed each year by gun violence and gun violence is the leading cause of death for African Americans.
In addition to the Holly Hill mass shooting victims, Clark reflected on others like the nine people who were slain as they worshiped at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on the evening of June 17; Anthony James, 45, of Holly Hill, who was shot and killed at his Boyer Road residence on June 25, 2011; and Margaret Dixon and Edward Shaw, who were gunned down at Dixon’s home in Vance on Feb. 3, 2001.
Also on the program was OG Tommy Brown, a promoter, songwriter and businessman who grew up in Holly Hill, attending Holly Hill Roberts High School. He said he was speaking from the standpoint of a young black man who was raised by a single parent. Brown said he had firsthand experience with gun violence as he lost his 19-year-old brother, Spider, to it.
Convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2009, Brown said after serving five years in prison, he turned his life around and is now involved with the nonprofit organization “Run my GP,” which he said helps ex-offenders when they are released from prison.
“We are all affected by gun violence in the community every day so we need to talk about it,” Brown said. “How are you going to step up to the plate?”
He said he would like to see more positive programs developed for the youth in the community.
Others participating in the rally were Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell; Deputy Cynammon Morant, a school resource officer and founder of the nonprofit Rebuilding Broken Walls Inc. designed to empower and educate youth, families and the community; and Mildred James Moss and Vernette Jenkins, who spoke on behalf of the families of others killed by gun violence.