By Carol Vaughn —
More than three dozen people marched against violence on a rainy Sunday in Onancock.
Organized by minister Quintavion Washington, the march from near the edge of town to the gazebo downtown caught the attention of passersby, one of whom rolled down his truck window and shouted thanks to the marchers.
Washington said he is coordinating with law enforcement and school officials to find ways “to stop the violence in our young people.”
“Gun violence doesn’t start with a gun; it starts at home; it starts in their early years,” Washington said, calling the problem “a chain reaction of mental, verbal, physical, and emotional abuse.”
Deaths as a result of gun violence are “so prevalent in our community that we have gotten numb to the situation,” he said, adding, “…We have to get to the point that we stand up against this violence and say that we are not going to take this any longer — not in our streets, not in our communities, not in our households — but we are going to be united together and we are going to fight this fight together.”
Several speakers followed Washington’s remarks, including mothers who have experienced the loss of a child as the result of violence.
Sheila Savage West spoke about her son, who was murdered at age 26.
“You expect to see certain things in their lives. You expect to see them graduate from college, which he was about to do; you expect him to one day come to you and say, ‘Mom, this is my fiancee,’ and you expect to attend their wedding, which I won’t get to do,” she said.
“There is a problem, and we have to find the answer to the problem,” West said.
Pamela Johnson spoke about her son, who was fatally shot at age 20.
“It devastated my whole family, the community, and everybody that knew him. He was a father; he left a 7-month-old daughter; he was a brother; he was an uncle; and he was loved by many,” she said, noting her son had come home from college for the summer when he got into an altercation and was shot and killed.
She urged listeners to speak up if they know of trouble brewing in the community.
“Talk to your kids; don’t let your kids walk around mad,” she said.
Shana Turner of Virginia Beach lost her son two years ago at age 25.
Turner founded the group Hampton Roads M. A. S. K., which stands for Mothers Against Senseless Killings, after the tragedy.
“It’s not always about gang violence. Guns are killing everyone — domestic violence, mental health, suicide, bullying. My son was leaving work, doing his normal routine” when a coworker shot him nine times, Turner said.
She urged anyone affected by violence who needs help to contact the organization, which is on facebook at hr.mask@facebook and on Instagram at HRM.A.S.K.@instagram.com. The website is HRMask.org
“We need to stop killing one another,” she said.
Another speaker, Christina Schmitt, advisor for National Youth Week USA, is a former assistant principal at Arcadia High School.
“The Eastern Shore has a special place for me…It matters. I drove four hours to make sure I was here today,” she said.
The organization is designating June 13-19, 2020, as National Youth Week, Schmitt said. The website is https://nywusa.com/
The organization also promotes www.stateyourcase.us, an app developed to help young people identify issues they are struggling with, including resources to help them cope.
The organization also has a telephone support line — OMI CASE Support Line 844-4NYWUSA(469-9872).
“When I left the Shore, my heart was still here, and I know there is a need in this community for youth programming,” she said, adding, “There are resources here, and you have to come together.”
Contact Quintavion Washington at email@example.com, 757-709-9527, or on Facebook.