Valencia Gunder is a community activist in Liberty City, a climate organizer with New Florida Majority, and founder of Make the Homeless Smile Miami. Her goddaughter Jada Page died on Aug. 30, two days after being caught in a drive-by shooting in her grandmother’s front yard.
I have been tested to the depths of my soul these past two weeks. I’m in disbelief that the same community I fight for every day, unapologetically, is the same community in which my God daughter was murdered, standing outside her grandmother’s home on Sunday afternoon waiting for her father so they can go to the movies. Two cowards changed our community FOREVER by firing off guns while children are out to play in broad daylight. Jada Page was struck in the head and put on life support for two days — and on Aug. 30, Jada received her wings.
Jada was an eight-year-old entrepreneur, dancer, and the life of every party. She was known for bringing joy to all she came in contact with. She was a trendsetter and risk taker.
Sitting by her hospital bed while her heart stopped, with tears in my eyes I whispered to my princess “Goddie will fight for you, I will give this city hell for you.” But deep inside I didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to protect the community anymore! I could not believe that my baby was taken away from me.
Then my hurt turned into anger. I was mad at everyone, every organization feeling like the work they do is NOT CHANGING ANYTHING! I was mad at the residents because they are afraid of standing up against these thugs for killing off our children. I was mad at the police because they haven’t caught the bad guys. And I was even more mad at MYSELF because I work hard for this community to see better days, but the people I love can’t walk around SAFE!
Facing the fact that I have to face life without Jada tore my soul apart for days, and I just laid in bed in disbelief that this is my reality. Then I planned a Justice Rally for Jada. In the rain over 400 community members stood in solidarity with my family as we looked for answers for Jada. But I knew that would not bring forward the murderers and I lost more hope.
A day before laying Jada to rest I received a call from a mentor who asked me, “Are you going to die after Jada, or live for Jada?” I sat back and thought on it for a moment because I was willing to die after her, but I remembered what I whispered in her ear when before she left us, “I will give this city HELL for you.”
At that moment I got up and told myself that I have to fight — fight for Justice for Jada, fight for all the other innocent children that have been murdered, and fight until our children are safe to LIVE in our community.
At Jada’s funeral I spoke publicly about how I want to build something so grand that will make her so proud of me. Even though I am still asking “Why?” I am recharged and ready. I will fight, I will give everyone HELL for Jada and every child like Jada.
We have so many things to do as a community and I know we are nowhere near close to victory, but I am dedicating my life to seeing real change in my community and to sounding the alarm, letting thugs know that they do not own our community and they are not wanted here. I will push law enforcement to stop being afraid of the REAL criminals and also ask the state to hold these individuals accountable for their wrongdoings. I will mobilize my community so we can come up with solutions to counteract this epidemic. This is NOT our reality and I refuse to accept it.
So let me reintroduce myself. I am Vee, who will turn over every stone and will probably make more enemies than friends, but will not allow the innocent in my community to live in fear anymore. WE WILL TAKE OUR COMMUNITIES BACK! Long Live Queen Jada.
Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please email us at [email protected]