After three residents were shot and killed last weekend, Raleigh youth are calling an end to the violence with a step performance and prayer chain at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial Sunday.

“It’s just basically to sound the alarm that the youth have a voice and they want to be able to live in a society without all the violence,” said Tameka Campbell-Johnson, director of Empowering Steppers. 

The event is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Sunday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Garden. Speakers will share their stories, followed by a step performance and prayer chain for the victims. They will also be accepting donations for the victim’s families. 

Devonte Jamal Tillery, Kimberly Irene Holder and Antonio O’Neal Early. Courtesy of Diana Powell. 

The deadly weekend began on Friday, November 8 at about 8:00 p.m. when police were called to Star Bar for a reported shooting. The cops arrived and found thirty-one-year-old Antonio O’Neal Early dead. 

An hour later, twenty-four-year-old Kimberly Irene Holder was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on Bragg Street. Two other passengers in the car, Jean Onivogui and Roy Chester Hyman, were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. 

In the early hours of November 10, police responded to the report of gunshots at a home on Beverly Drive. Not long after the body of twenty-eight-year-old Devonte Jamal Tillery was dropped outside of WakeMed hospital. He had died after suffering gunshot wounds. 

Tillery’s killer is still at large. Kendrick Daquane Thomas, twenty-seven, has been arrested and charged with murdering Holder. Police are still seeking two others in connection to that shooting. Carlton Craig Harris was charged with Early’s murder, and Drew Dominique Smith was charged as an accessory after the fact to murder. 

The spike in violence has shaken the community and left many young people feeling unsafe, with some afraid to go outside in their neighborhoods, Campbell-Johnson said. Stepping, a percussive dance form, is not only a way to helps them express themselves but serves as their “safe haven.”

“They step their way through it. They put all their frustration into practice, competition,” Campbell-Johnson says. 

Mayor Nancy McFarlane is concerned about the spike in violence, which she believes is due to the “proliferation of guns” in the community. 

“We really hope that the community will help engage with the police and other local nonprofits so we can work together to find out what is driving the violence, but also see what we can do as a community to try and get guns out of the hands of people that should not have them,” McFarlane says.

But that’s not enough, says Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC. The violence, she believes, is the consequence of a lack of investment in the city’s poorer communities and inadequate funding for gang prevention. 

“This is also a call to our public officials to get funding into our community around gang prevention,” Powell says. “These people have lost hope; the job situation, the criminal justice system—we need funding.”

“Where are our elected officials? Where are their voices in this? Is it all about redevelopment?” Powell continued. “All of that is the collateral consequence.”