Tuesday night, Shawntell Young, mother of the late Jaqualyn Paxton, hosted the walk Stop the Gun Violence downtown in remembrance of her daughters 3rd heavenly birthday. Jaqualyn’s life ended three years ago due to gun violence here in Texarkana. Surrounded by friends, family, police officers, our local Mayors, and those who have been impacted by gun violence in our area, the community came together to support those that have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Mayor’s Bob Bruggeman and Allen Brown of the Texas and Arkansas side came to open the rally with their thoughts on gun violence in our area, and the impact it has had on our own local community. “Too many times do we hear the news of devastation related to gun violence in our area. It’s up to us, and the power that we hold to stop it from happening. But the question is, how do we make our community safer? To answer that we have to make a lasting impact on gun violence. In an effort of collaboration between agencies, officers and our community, we must have an actively shared commitment to end this,” said Mayor Brown. Mayor Bruggeman shared similar remarks, quoting a statement made by local and recent Arkansas High School graduate Gaylon Williams. “The moment a life is taken due to gun violence. Two lives are impacted. The victim and their families, and the perpetrators life and their families. Two lives are ended the moment gun violence occurs,” said Bruggeman.
Young, who hosted the event with the help of family, community members, and the local City Council, invited families from around the Texarkana area to share their stories of how gun violence has impacted their lives. One of those speakers was Tomeki Hayes-Calloway, whose sons life was cut short at the age of 17 due to the prevalence of gun violence in our area. “I will never be able to see my son go to prom, to graduate or to have children of his own. There is a trajectory of life that is taken when gun violence occurs. It affects a whole lot. It’s lots of sleepless nights, it’s hurt, it’s crying, pain and anger. But we have to do something. I share this stage with a lot of women tonight who have experienced loss due to gun violence. It’s a different kind of bond that I share with these women, and that bond is the loss of our children and our loved ones,” said Hayes-Calloway.
As the rally continued the crowd heard from several families including the Crabtrees, the Aldridge family and more. Jermaine Aldridge (31) and Jaqualyn Paxton (18) are only among the few fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends whose lives were tragically ended due to gun violence in our local Texarkana community in the last few years. Last nights most common theme among speakers was “Put the Guns Down.” Several community members spoke on the generational difference of how arguments used to be settled amongst friends and foes. “We used to use our hands. We would fight. We wouldn’t talk for a few days, but then we would be friends again and our lives went on. It’s not like that anymore. Now you pull out a gun, and from that moment on, lives are changed and all too often ended. Put your guns down!” said one speaker.
Young, who hosted last nights event, has taken the death of her daughter as a way to enlighten, educate, and bring the community of Texarkana together, for the simple of cause of ending gun violence in our area. “I have had the time to send my message. To seek justice. End the violence. Put the guns down,” said Young. Young created the foundation Jaqualyn’s Light Prevails, which has given out scholarships to students in our area going to college. Her scholarship fund runs entirely on community donations. Her foundation has been able to impact the lives of several teens in our area who shared their stories through essay form on gun violence, and their personal experience with loss, grief, and anger. Young has noted that in the future, she hopes to put the essays together in a book, to further educate the local community, and those without knowledge of the loss of gun violence.