High Point residents call for end to gun violence

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Children on an activity bus taking up the rear of the march chant on the way to Washington Terrace Park.

 

by Jordan Green

Family members reflect on lifestyle choices, economic root causes and community impact of losing loved ones to acts of violence in High Point.

Sharon McCormick lost her son, Darrell Deion McCormick, in January 2011. Known by the nickname “Fresh,” he was just three months shy of his 30th birthday when he was shot to death.

“I’ve been looking for a word in the dictionary to describe the pain I feel; I don’t think they’ve invented one,” the High Point mother said. “There are good days and bad days. People think that drug dealing is the way. It leads to loss of life.”

McCormick marched through the Washington Street business district with about 75 others as part of an event billed as the “Kill the Violence Movement” on June 28. She carried a banner to commemorate her son’s death that conveyed a narrative with an unmistakable message. Moving from left to right, it displayed a sequenced series of photos showing Darrell McCormick exultantly waving a wad of dollar bills over a candle, then lying in an open casket with his mother weeping over him. At right is his gravestone.

“When you pick up guns this is the end result,” she said. “You need to think about what you’re doing. You can’t take it back.

“This is the result of the partying lifestyle, the jealousy and envy,” she continued. “Even though he sold drugs, he helped kids. When someone was in prison, he took care of their kids. Jealousy is why he was shot. They thought he had a lot, but he really didn’t. No parent should have to do this, to bury their child. The result is that all we have is visiting our loved one’s grave.”

Her son and the man who killed him were friends, McCormick said. She and the mother of her son’s killer knew each other because they raised their children in the same neighborhood. She said she has come to appreciate that violence destroys the families of both the victims and the perpetrators. She forgave her son’s killer. She had to do that for herself to keep from being consumed by hatred. She’s actively involved now with a group called Triad Parents Sharing the Death of a Child that meets regularly at Macedonia Family Resource Center in High Point.

And now McCormick is raising her son’s three children. Surrounded by family members, she embraced one of her son’s friends at Washington Terrace Park and admonished her grandchildren to stay nearby.

Darrell McCormick’s death prodded Tonya Thornton, the great-aunt of one of his daughters, to take action. Thornton’s nonprofit Building Broken Blocks is designed to tackle a host of community problems, including providing re-entry services to ex-offenders. She said God gave her the vision for the Kill the Violence Movement after McCormick’s death; that vision came to fruition with the recent march.

Even before McCormick’s murder, Thornton had been personally affected by violence when her friend, Jermaine Collins, was murdered in 2007.

“He was murdered in a home invasion,” Thornton recalled. “He was shot in front of his 7-year-old son. It was just so hard for me to believe. I used to be homeless. He took care of me and he always made sure I ate and gave me a place to sleep. He never crossed the line with me. He was younger than me, but he looked after me. He was basically a Good Samaritan. I didn’t find out about it until after he was buried.”

Thornton said she badly wanted to find one of her friend’s family members to tell them how important he was to her, but his mother died a couple months later. She was ecstatic when a friend recently introduced her to Collins’ sister.

As peopled gathered near the intersection of Centennial and Washington streets, Thornton gave them their marching orders.

“All the family members that lost someone, they’re leading the parade,” she said.

The marchers carried placards with the names of dozens of murder victims on one side and the inscription “Kill the violence” on the other. Marching past Jackie’s Place jazz club, the demolished Kilby Hotel and Becky’s and Mary’s Restaurant, they chanted, “Stop the violence,” “We want peace” and “Save our streets.” Dozens of children chanted and waved signs from a Boys and Girls Club activity bus at the back of the march.

Marching near the front and holding one end of the banner commemorating his nephew was Charles McCormick.

Both of his sisters have lost children, he said. Another nephew was hit by a train not far from Washington Terrace Park. It’s such an unnatural act for a parent to bury a child, he said.

The family recently marked the death of Charles and Sharon’s grandmother, who was 92. They mourned her passing, but it was different.

“She was the glue that held our family together through all these losses,” Charles McCormick said. “It was devastating to lose her, of course, but we got to have her with us for many years. We didn’t get to see what these young men might have become. This neighborhood is plagued with violence.”

Lack of economic opportunity is the primary factor in the many hazards that put young men at risk in Carson Stout Homes, Daniel Brooks Homes and JC Morgan Courts, the three public-housing communities that surround Washington Terrace Park, McCormick said.

“The only choice they think they have is the streets — selling drugs,” he said. “It saturates the city. Most of the kids here haven’t left High Point. They haven’t gone to New York or Atlanta, even Charlotte. High Point is sadder than Winston-Salem or Greensboro. We’re at the bottom of the barrel. We want it to change.”

Education is the single most important factor in breaking the cycle of poverty and violence, McCormick said. He estimated that only 20 percent of the adults at the gathering had obtained any education beyond high school.

“I, my brother, my cousins that are my age — 35 to 45 — we’re only now getting college degrees,” McCormick said. “I went into the military after high school. I’m 45 now. I take some responsibility for what happened to my nephew that we’re celebrating here today. He didn’t have that example of an older male relative that went to college. There are people that come out of prison, and they celebrate that. We should be celebrating young people graduating from college.”

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