A car full of laughing teenage girls turned to cries of anguished pain as their vehicle was bullet riddled by unknown gang assailants who drove off leaving half a dozen injured and one 16 year old – Tiphne Darshay Hollis – dead.
Nearly four years ago Friday, this evening of girlish teenage fun of shopping and dining which ended in such an unanticipated grisly outcome of events has forever seared the lives of residents and its affected families in a small Jacksonville neighborhood near Stockton and Calvin.
In a monthly march commemorating the event, families and friends not only wish to keep the memory of Tiphne Darshay Hollis alive, but also to bring awareness of the devastating effects gang violence continues to have in a depressed community struggling to survive.
As with most intimate neighborhoods where the homeowners grow up together and know one another, there are assurances that there are people who are cognizant of facts that could bring the perpetrators to justice, though no one has come forward with any substantial information.
“They know who did it,” remarked one of the participants who pointed toward a group of middle-aged African American men watching the procession from their front porches, sipping bottles of beer and making comments to passers-by.
Other residents peek from curtained windows, some in silent support, and some in fear. Marchers – a few dozen or so in Friday’s walk – chant together, “Justice for Tiphne! We want Justice! Justice for Tiphne! We Want Justice! No Justice? No Peace! No Justice? No Peace!”
“When we began (March 20, 2010) there were hundreds of supporters who marched with us,” recalls Shanda Whitaker, the victim’s mother and advocate, who spearheads the movement and began the Tiphne Darshay Hollis Foundation. She is also the principal of The TDH Christian Academy and Daycare Center with a vision to make a difference in children’s lives by offering a better alternative to meeting their needs which may be overlooked in a large public school setting.
Whitaker admits that some solace comes from the monthly gathering of relatives and neighbors. Some days there are many supporters. Some days there are few.
They meet by the Greater Bethany Baptist Church parking lot at 6:00 pm on the 20th of every month and march around the neighborhood – much in the same manner as Joshua and the people around the walls of Jericho -- ending at the location where the crime took place. A small shrine has been established displaying a small stone cross surrounded with flowers and small gifts. A picture and testimony of Tiphne’s life hangs there. At the conclusion of the march, there were uplifting words of encouragement from some of the participating pastors, teachers, and relatives.
Gang violence not only touches the families hurt by such a criminal element in their environment. It changes the relationships and trust among its neighbors, an important element the cry for peace marchers hope to instill as they walk through the community as a reminder that justice for Tiphne is not just a call for peace -- it is a battle cry for change.