One by one, the speakers on Saturday made their anguish clear: The violence has to stop.
“There are so many parents who are looking at an empty bed because their child has been taken from them,” said Mary Bolton, a Mount Tabor student and the daughter of Walter Holton, a former U.S. attorney.
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. urged local residents to help stop gun violence three days after a Mount Tabor High School student was shot to death.
“If you are not going to donate your time, your treasure or even your prayers … if you are not going to bring solutions, I want you to get out of the way,” Kimbrough said. “I want you to sit down. We are losing too many children. We are losing too many lives.”
Kimbrough was among the speakers at the event, “Guns Down, Lives Up,” which was held at Winston Square Park in downtown Winston-Salem. More than 150 people, including many Mount Tabor students, attended.
“What I am seeing today is frightening — to have a shooting in a public school,” the sheriff said. “When I see everything that is happening in our community: Where is the damn outrage?
“Somebody please tell me, where (are) the protests on the violence,” Kimbrough asked.
William Chavis Renard Miller Jr., 15, died Wednesday at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist after he was shot at 12:05 p.m. at the high school. The alleged shooter, who is believed to be a Mount Tabor student, was arrested later Wednesday.
Authorities haven’t released the suspect’s name, age and whether he has been charged or any details about the circumstances that led to the shooting.
Since the shooting, Kimbrough has experienced a range of emotions, he said.
“I’ve been angry (and) I’ve been sad,” Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough has visited Shannon Clark, Miller’s mother, twice at her home since her son’s death.
“I talk to her every day,” Kimbrough said. “When I saw Shannon cry, I cried. When she hurts, I hurt. When she hurts, we all hurt.”
Kimbrough said he has been crying for the past three days.
Kimbrough said he is grappling with Miller’s death and Friday night’s death of a 2-year-old child who was shot in the chest.
Winston-Salem police went to a reported shooting at a house in the 100 block of Martindale Road about 7:39 p.m. Friday.
Officers learned that a shooting victim was taken to the hospital in a private car, and they encountered and stopped the car on Interstate 74 near Interstate 40 in southeastern Winston-Salem, police said. The child then was taken to a local hospital, where the child died. Police are conducting a death investigation.
“I am grappling with all of these things that are happening in our community,” Kimbrough said. “Anything that is a social issue has the ability to become a criminal issue.”
Kimbrough then described what he saw of Mount Tabor High School after the shooting.
“I saw people crying uncontrollably,” the sheriff said. “I saw people having panic attacks. We can only take so much as human beings.”
In his remarks, David Villada, the founder and director of a nonprofit called New Life/Nueva Vida, told the crowd he regretted that they came to another rally against gun violence.
“I hate that we are here for the wrong reason,” Villada said. “But let’s make it the right reason.”
Villada recalled Alberto Rios Navarrette, 5, who was killed in July 2019 in a drive-by shooting in an apartment complex in southeastern Winston-Salem.
“I’m sorry for your pain,” Villada told the crowd. “In my community, we see this every day. Kids are outside playing and someone comes up the street shooting and someone is killed.”
Al Jabbar, the president of the Winston-Salem chapter of the NAACP, said that Miller’s death is an example of a lack of love by someone who used a gun to resolve a conflict.
More resources need to be spent on improving the mental health of local children, said Jabbar, who volunteers at Petree Elementary School.
There is also not enough love being shown to children in many of their homes, Jabbar said.
“There is no way that a parent should not know what’s going on in their children lives,” Jabbar said. “Our children need us.”
Jabbar praised the Black Lives Matter movement, but “I want Black Lives Matter to be on the streets when we are killing one another, speaking out against it,” he said.
Tony Ndege, a protest organizer with Black Lives Matter-Winston-Salem, couldn’t be immediately reached Saturday for comment about Jabbar’s statement.
Artemus Peterson, the founder of Enough Is Enough W-S, said that parents must help their children to resolve their conflicts with other children. His organization is a nonprofit youth empowerment organization in Winston-Salem.
“We can’t keep sacrificing our kids,” Peterson said. “I’m tired of meetings. All of us should get out here and do something.”
Malishai Woodbury, the chairwoman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, told the crowd that too many local children must overcome a lack of food and parental guidance in their homes.
Students also must decide whether to snitch on their friends to local law enforcement agencies and school administrators in order to save someone’s life, Woodbury said.
Frankie Gist of Winston-Salem, the founder of HOPE Dealers Outreach, also urged the crowd at the rally to take action against gun violence.
“What happens when we leave here,” Gist asked. “We are burying kids daily. Do you wait until the next shooting to speak up?”
Too many children in local neighborhoods are growing up without their fathers in their lives and with mothers who work two jobs, Gist said.
“We want little Johnny to do the right things,” Gist said. “But little Johnny is hurting.”
The city must spend more money on local programs to prevent children from joining gangs, Gist said.
“We have to tackle this violence,” he said.