By Carol Vaughn
A march and rally to stop gun violence on the Eastern Shore is set for Sunday, Dec. 29, at 3 p.m. in Onancock.
The “Stop the Violence” walk will start at the former hospice building in Onancock and will end at the Onancock gazebo.
A young minister, Elder Quintavion Washington, 25, of House of Refuge Deliverance Center in Temperanceville, is spearheading the effort, in partnership with an organization called M.A.S.K. and the National Youth Week USA State your CASE program.
Washington recently conducted his third funeral service in a year for a young man who died as result of gun violence.
The funeral was for Tayvion Laquan Smith, who died of his injuries after deputies responding to a report of shots fired early Dec. 13 found him in an Onancock residence suffering from an apparent gunshot wound.
Washington felt the need to address the topic of gun violence, as well as other forms of violence, in a public way, leading to planning the event in Onancock.
“I’ve never had this many ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on Facebook…That already tells me that people are behind this,” he said.
Washington, who was raised in the church and has been preaching for 16 years, veered off the right path at one point, and credits the intervention and support of a handful of relatives and mentors with encouraging him to get back on track.
“The purpose for this rally is simply to give back to our community,” Washington said, adding, “I know where some of these young people are; I’ve been there myself — I had a rocky start at a young age; I was arrested and locked up before, so I know how it is to feel like all hope is lost.”
Young people in a similar situation “need somebody to say, ‘You know what — I’m going to get out here and roll up my sleeves. I’m going to show you that I love you, I care about you, and I’m fighting for you,” he said.
Washington said he knows improvement won’t happen overnight, but said, “Slow progress is better than no progress…If I can prevent at least one person from making the wrong decision, then that’s going to stimulate to another person.”
Several speakers — including four mothers of young people who died as result of gun violence — are lined up to address the marchers at the Dec. 29 event.
“All these women lost kids,” Washington said.
He hopes the event will be “a community thing,” crossing racial and other dividing lines.
In addition to the march, Washington’s intention is to create an ongoing organization to address violence, in partnership with existing groups.
“I’m already working with different individuals” to form a board to oversee the effort and determine “what is it we need to do to reach our younger generation,” he said.
“My job now is to, when we come together, make them think that this is not just another get-together,” Washington said, adding, “This is something that is actually going to have an effect on somebody.”