All photos by Stephanie Rivera.
Three days after her 19-year-old son was gunned down in Long Beach’s Eastside neighborhood Monday night, Sherell Wetherston spoke to a crowd of more than 100—between short sobs and deep breaths—urging the community to help stop the violence.
“We’re losing too many of our young men to the streets, and young ladies as well,” Wetherston said. “It’s time to be positive role models to our community and step up.”
Her words weren't new, but her pain was fresh and with each word she said the emotion was felt among the community members gathered during a vigil for her son Delhaun Jackson at Rosa Parks Park Thursday night.
Jackson was one of four men shot Monday, April 18, on 17th Street, near Alamitos Avenue. He was declared dead at the scene.
Three days before he was killed, she said Jackson was celebrating the birthday of his one-year-old son.
“He cooked everything for four hours to prepare for this party for his one-year-old son," Wetherston said. Now, she said, he won't see his son's "first steps, won't hear him say dad, won't walk him to school or read books at night."
She pleaded with those present to protect each other and help the entire community.
“It’s not just black lives, all lives should matter," Wetherston said, noting the mixed race of her grandchild. “Anyone can pick up a gun, but it takes heart to do the right thing.”
His death prompted community leaders to gather residents just two blocks from the shooting and implore them to take back the community through a campaign known as #AwakenLB.
The goals of the campaign are three-fold, organizers said in a release:
- Activate the community to engage existing violence prevention processes and mechanisms currently being provided through the city and private sectors
- Become more articulate regarding the authentic needs of their particular community for policing, support, employment and housing
- Champion and mediate proactive conversations between potential violence perpetrators.
“We need our community employed, healthy, educated, empowered,” said Gregory Sanders, president of the Long Beach Ministers Alliance. “We’re going to take control of our community.”
The gathering was noticeably absent of police and city officials—something organizers did purposely to speak and connect directly to the community through music, prayer and frankness.
During the event, flyers announcing a pre-apprenticeship program and community watch workshop were passed out. Residents also received a folded pocket guide listing agencies available to them for multiple issues including health, housing, legal aid and violence prevention.
The efforts were appreciated by those in attendance.
Aisha Alexander, who is Wetherston’s neighbor, said she wanted to see more free community programs for the youth, saying they have too much free time.
Alexander said she awoke to the news of Jackson’s death in the middle of the night. As soon as she found out, she immediately went to her 16-year-old son’s room and hugged him, she said teary-eyed.
Anderson said she keeps her son active. He currently serves as a fire cadet in Los Angeles for eight hours every Saturday.
“The youth is falling for nothing,” Alexander said. “You can’t even walk outside.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral costs and necessities for Jackson’s son.
Sanders said he plans to organize two more #AwakenLB events in the upcoming weeks in areas with high crime rates.
Long Beach has experienced about 55 shootings so far this year. The most recently reported shooting happened hours before the vigil and resulted in the injury of a man.