Parents demand change as urban violence rises

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Amid the ongoing wave of violence in Lexington, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and local organization We Are Survivors have commemorated National Remembrance Day honoring Kentuckians who have died from gun violence.

what you need to know

  • September 25 marks the 15th anniversary of National Remembrance Day for Murder Victims
  • We are the survivors, returning to the steps of the historic courthouse to commemorate their days
  • Neighborhoods in Lexington are experiencing a surge in violent crime

Ricardo Franklin continues his mother’s — the late Lexington gun violence prevention activist Anita Franklin’s — effort to run the “Walk in Our Shoes” campaign.

Ricardo Franklin says he hopes to one day pass the torch of leadership and violence prevention, as his mother Anita Franklin did to him. (Spectrum News 1/Sabriel Metcalf)

From matriarchs to siblings, families gathered on the steps of Lexington’s historic courthouse alongside the last pairs of shoes worn by victims of the shooting and other violent crimes.

Memorabilia include the victims’ special sneakers or boots and photos of them and their families.

While it feels good to help facilitate change, the organization doesn’t plan to increase the numbers, Franklin said.

“It’s kind of bittersweet because you don’t want to be part of the group at all, but we want survivors in the community to know that they do have a home, and they’ll have someone to talk to and reach out to,” Franklin said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

“We Are Survivors” Lexington organizer Deanna Mullins, who lost her son Sean nearly five years ago, started with the help of Anita Franklin herself.

Deana Mullins and her daughter Shelby Howard show off their tattoos to beloved Sean, who passed away on August 5, 2017. (Spectrum News 1/Sabriel Metcalf)

Following an increase in violent crime in Lexington, Mullins said the monuments help bring attention back to the lives that have been lost. She is teaching her children to be prepared.

“Unfortunately, I had to train my kids that if you heard or saw you would leave as soon as possible. If there was a way, you would find a hiding place and escape as best you could,” she said.

Mothers, fathers, grandmothers and partners spoke to the crowd about the hardships of losing victims in such a tragedy. Several parents said the murder of their child remains unsolved.

Franklin said he and we are survivors who want to continue to be a safe unit for grieving families, while showing others how to be partners for those who recover.

“How can I get someone to show up in this situation like I was 14, 15, and be able to go on long after me like my mom did? I think she touched a lot of people in the community, I Think that’s what she’s going to do,” Franklin said.

At the end of the event, Heavenleigh “Star Bookie” Hymon, 7, performed her song “Put the Guns Down,” with lyrics centered on the reality of gun violence.

Friday, September. On January 30, these organizations will host a block party at the Charles Young Center in Lexington to help the community spread awareness through fun-filled and safe gatherings.

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