Last Wednesday, 19-year-old Kiana Brown would have gotten up and headed to a new manager’s position at a Milford restaurant.
“The day that she was taken from us was the day she was to return back to work due to the coronavirus and the pandemic,” said Rev. D’Hati Burgess, Brown’s uncle.
“By the grace of God we’re coping, we’re managing,” said Burgess.
Brown was one of seven homicides in New Haven this year, with three in the last month. Thursday night, two gunshot victims were found on the same street where Brown was killed.
“It’s not just a city’s problem, it’s not just an ethnic background situation, it’s a people’s problem,” said Burgess.
To solve it, Burgess says people should start at home.
“Parents have to know who they’re running with, and their road dogs, and homegirls, and vice versa,” said Burgess.
New Haven’s community group Ice the Beef fills in that gap by offering 30 young people activities to keep them engaged and away from gun violence.
“If you like to play ball, we started a basketball league,” said Chaz Carmon of Ice the Beef. “If you like to sing and rap, we started a group of singers, dancers, rappers and actors.”
Carmon says this model is crucial to meeting young people where they are, and there should be more in the city.
“No matter how you think about taxes, no matter how you think about housing no matter how you think about – there has to be a component in there for children, for teenagers,” said Carmon.
The increase in gun violence follows young people who were let out of school in March with little to do, plus the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a push for racial equality.
“Emotions are really running high, in every avenue,” said Carmon.
He says many of his young people knew Brown and were impacted by her death. Everyone in New Haven should be, he says, because everyone knows someone that's a teen, Brown could have been anyone.
"As soon as I got that first phone call, I already knew that we had to do something," said Carmon.
This Sunday, Ice the Beef is holding a march and event in honor of Brown and others lost this year to gun violence. It's an opportunity to give young people a voice during a tragic time.
The event starts at 2 p.m. at Stetson Library and ends on the Green.
"Once we get to the Green, we have families speaking of ones that were lost this year," said Carmon.
“If someone knows something, please come forward, please say something. Not just in our situation but any situation,” said Burgess.
Kiana Brown will be laid to rest Monday at 10 a.m. at Trinity Temple Church of God in Christ.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the New Haven Police Department at 203-946-6304. Callers may remain anonymous or submit tips anonymously by calling 1-866-888-TIPS (1-866-888-8477). Tips can also be texted. Text “NHPD” plus your message to short code 274637 (CRIMES).