The 10th annual Stop the Violence Walk will be held Monday, Jan. 20, according to Garrett Dillard, organizer.
This marks the second year in a row that the community has suffered a loss right before the walk, Dillard said, referring to a recent apparent murder-suicide.
He also noted a portion of the walk Monday will honor Najada Joyce, 20, of Axton, along with others lost to violence, Dillard said.
Joyce and Jalen Millner, 20, of Ridgeway, were found inside a crashed Nissan Altima, which ran off the left side of Soapstone Road before striking several trees and turning over, authorities have said.
Investigators determined that Joyce and Millner were shot before the crash and that the gunshots came from inside the vehicle. Joyce was dead when first responders arrived; Millner died soon after he was removed from the vehicle.
A handgun was recovered from inside of the vehicle, which authorities said they believe to have been used during the incident.
Dillard, who also suffered a traumatic loss, knows that kind of pain too well.
“In 2010, my brother was shot and killed in Sandy Level,” he said of his brother, Glen Dillard. That tragedy prompted Dillard to organize the initial walk to address violence brought on by drugs, crime, domestic abuse, and mental health, he said.
“Our theme (is) vision,” Dillard said in a press release. The flyer for the 10th annual event cements its theme for ‘2020 vision’ with Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
The event, which coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, has had a positive impact, Dillard said.
“We’ve seen great results and improvement. More kids are graduating from school, and there is a sense of pride within the community,” Dillard said, adding that he initially saw an eight-year period of decrease in violence.
Now, there’s been a resurgence of violence, he said, naming four recent violent deaths within the community.
The walk begins at the Crossroad Store on Axton Road at 9 a.m., and will conclude at St. John Baptist Church, where reflections, performances, and MLK day activities will take place. The event ends at noon with a light lunch.