Carmen Pagan (S.O.M.B.E.R)

My name is Carmen Pagan. On January 3, 2016, at 5:59 p.m., my oldest brother, Richard Davila, was shot three times and killed as he made his way across the street to my mother’s home. Richard was caught in between a drug turf war, where the individuals who were standing on opposite sides of West Wishart Street decided to open fire, from one end to the other, at each other. My brother was caught in the crossfire.

After the shots rang out, my mother called my brother’s cell phone to make sure he was OK, and there was no answer. My mother, father and siblings ran out after the shooting ceased and found my brother lying between the sidewalk and street unresponsive. He took his last breaths on that cold sidewalk on that day. My mother called me shortly after, and it is a phone call I will never forget: a mother’s cry for the loss of her son. In October 2020 I would place that same call to my mother, as my son had been shot three times but survived. So many lives changed forever. Too many gone too soon.

Brother Taj

In May 2020, I was attacked while exiting my car in the late evening, in front of my apartment. I was shot five times by an unknown assailant, whom I didn’t see. The first shot entered and shattered my eye socket, the other four hitting my arms and shoulders and shattering my elbow. My carotid artery was damaged, and after the paramedics moved me to the ambulance, a blood clot loosened and went to my brain. This caused me to have a stroke, which, in turn, caused me to lose all feeling in my left hand, arm and leg.

Despite my injuries, I survived and left the hospital after only two months. I went back to work as prison reentry advocate and case manager, and in July, I welcomed the birth of my son.

I consider myself a walking miracle, and it is clear to me that my time was not up because I have plenty of good work to still do.

Brittany Jasinski

I lost my best friend on April 10, 2016, due to a senseless act of gun violence. He was trying to fight off people jumping his friends at a night club in Philly. A random stranger shot and killed him. One shot to the chest, and he was gone forever. The funny thing is, he hated going out, especially to bars and clubs.

He left behind family and friends who love him dearly, but most importantly, he left behind his beautiful daughter. She was robbed of a father.

He was someone you felt you knew your whole life. He had such a contagious smile and laugh and could change your mood in an instant. He was always on the go, never in one place too long. He had a great passion for music and loved making it. When he loved, he loved deeply. Despite your flaws, he loved and accepted all of you, never judging. He had many flaws himself; he was growing and working on being a better him, but he’ll never have that chance. I miss my best friend. RIP.

Kimberly and Lamar Devoe

My 17-year-old daughter lost her life to gun violence on February 8, 2020. She leaves behind a five-month-old son and five other siblings. She had dreams of going to college and taking up dance, which is and has always been her passion. She was the light and laughter of the house. I had just spoken to her 30 minutes prior because she was heading to the corner store and then coming home. I can’t tell her story without crying; it hurts. Please, everyone, put the guns down…


I was only 25 when my cousin was struck by a stray bullet due to nearby gang violence. She wasn’t killed instantly but did die in my arms at the scene. She was only 16. She told me, with her last few breaths, to make sure this never happened to anyone else. It has been my duty to do whatever is necessary to honor my cousin’s name. It’s also to ensure that no one else has to feel the pain that I do everyday. I honor her every day by staying strong. Miss you Julia!!

Love always,


When we forgive those who have caused us the most pain, healing is possible. Forgiveness is the most powerful tool we have to transform our pain into hope.

Howard G. Young, Jr. was shot and killed while standing on the street in Burlington, New Jersey, on November 25, 2016. The man who killed him was arrested, tried and convicted of first-degree murder on February 12, 2018.

This is Howie’s story.

My son Howie was a different kind of guy. He was fearless and kept me worried most of the time. In fact, he thrived on adventure and liked living dangerously. He was not a cuddly-type of person, and he seldom showed his true feelings. Some people might think that he was a “tough guy,” but he was quite the opposite. He was very sensitive and really had a good heart, so I’d like to think that he was a “rebel” — a kind of renegade in disguise. Some of my family members described him as determined, thankful, sunny, funny, appreciative, witty, precocious, lovable, active, sincere, sensitive, caring, curious and full of life. And he was all of those things and much more.

Sharon Kemble

Daniel was full of life. He loved to ride dirt bikes and play basketball. He also loved to get milkshakes with his son, Daniel. Daniel was the one everyone would call to come help if they had a problem or a fight. Daniel could either talk or fight his way out of a situation. I told him over and over to stop picking up for people, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

The night of July 2, 2015, two boys were robbed at the park located on the corner of my street. Daniel and I were outside talking while he took apart a piece on his motorcycle. We heard the gunshot, and a few minutes later, they walked up to us. Twelve hours later my son was dead! He went to try to get back the boys’ phones. As he walked into the killer’s path, he shot him once in the hip, paused, then put two more in his back. My son didn’t even make it to the hospital. Now my grandson, daughter and I are heartbroken forever. A medium told me my son told him to tell me, “I should have listened to you!”


On May 26, 2016, Birdell Beeks became an innocent bystander to gun violence in north Minneapolis, Minnesota. Birdell was my mother. On that spring day, Birdell was driving with her 16-year-old daughter. They were waiting at a stop sign to make a left turn when Birdell’s granddaughter noticed a man on a hill with a gun. The granddaughter screamed to her grandmother, “Duck! He has a gun!” But it was too late. The armed man had already begun discharging his gun at another vehicle passing in the area. He did not care that there were innocent people driving by or that there were innocent people walking down the street. He opened fire, emptying his entire clip! One of his bullets hit Birdell Beeks in the arm. When paramedics arrived, Birdell was holding on. Her granddaughter was distraught, lost and confused as she had just heard what would be the last words she would ever hear her grandmother say: “Baby they got me!” Birdell died while in surgery.

Since that day, Birdell’s daughter, Bunny Beeks, has fought tirelessly as an advocate for other families in Minneapolis who have lost their lives to gun violence.

Rhonda Golston

Three years ago, on January 28, 2017, I went to bed early because I was not feeling well. While lying in the bed around 10:15 p.m., I woke up to be struck by a bullet. When the paramedics arrived, they discovered that I was shot in back. They asked me to move my legs. I could not move my legs. The police discovered that five bullets came through the walls of my bedroom. My mom’s bedroom also had bullets in her walls. I was taken to the nearest hospital for treatment. Next I was put on a helicopter and taken to another hospital because of the severity of my injury. The very next day, two neurosurgeons told my dad that I had been shot in the spinal cord and that my vertebrae were shattered in three places. The doctors also told my dad I will never walk again. I did take physical therapy, and I’m able to walk briefly with AFO braces and a knee brace with a rollator or walker. My dad found out from the detectives that it was a gang shoot out between a Chicago and Gary gang.

Marge leeson mitchell

It was the summer of 1970. My Uncle Johnny was the associate minister of the largest black church in Atlanta: Wheat Street Baptist Church. The church owned a housing project, and my uncle was taking the receipts from that day’s money. On the way to the bank, someone walked up to him and shot him for the money. He immediately hit the ground and died.

My aunt who was also a minister was a polio victim. Aunt Betty relied on Johnny to do a lot for her around the house and in her life. She was not able to cope with his death. In August Uncle Johnny was murdered, and in January my aunt died. It was a loss of both an aunt and an uncle. They were childless, and my father had abandoned our family when I was seven. I was 21 at the time, and Uncle Johnny had been my father figure. I was married in December with a heavy heart: Uncle Johnny would not be at my wedding.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, my uncle chose to go back to the South and work, so I thought of my uncle this Martin Luther King weekend.