About 50 people, young and old, gathered holding lit candles Sunday evening to remember those recently lost to gun violence.
“All around the neighborhood,” they sang, “I’m gonna let it shine.”
“It’s a sad occasion, but it’s an important occasion,” Mike Poage, co-chairman of the Wichita Coalition Against Gun Violence, told them.
In light of recent gun violence in Wichita that killed four people, local organizers decided it was time to say something.
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“It hit our group pretty significantly just because there were so many (incidents) all at once,” said Mary Ware of the coalition, which sponsored the vigil at 21st and Hillside. “We felt we just had to have a response.”
The coalition is made up of local activists aiming to reduce deaths and injuries caused by gun violence, using education and legislative, legal and social action.
Sunday night’s vigil was necessary, Ware said, to bring attention to a series of shootings that left four people dead over three days. Three of those deaths were the result of domestic violence, police said last week, and two happened within a mile-and-a-half radius about 90 minutes apart.
One of those shootings took place in the parking lot of a Wichita State University dorm.
Poage said he teaches English to international students at Wichita State, though he didn’t know the student who was killed, 23-year-old Rayan Ibrahim Baba.
“It’s meant to be a quiet, memorable time to remember those that were killed in the last week ... through quiet music and through quiet or silent prayer,” said Poage, a retired Wichita pastor.
Much of the vigil was silent. Participants took time to quietly honor the victims while holding signs that read “Every town for gun safety.” They held hands, sang “We Shall Overcome” and spoke in remembrance of the victims.
Stopping gun violence isn’t something that can happen by the work of a single person, Viette Sanders told the audience.
She motioned toward her son and said, “I don’t want to lose him to gun violence or unnecessary violence. ... The only way we can stop this is if we do it together.”
The younger generations, especially, needed to hear the message, Djuan Wash said. He brought his niece and nephew, 7 and 3, with him to the vigil.
“Someone mentioned today that the problem can’t be solved on an individual basis,” he said. “We have to solve these issues together. It’s important to bring these kids up from a young ago so they have an understanding of community.”