PHOTOS: In Memory of Local Youths Whose Lives Were Cut Short By Violence

This year's National Children's Memorial Flag Day Ceremony drew in more than 50 people from who gathered at the Children's Memorial Grove on Fairmont Ridge to honor Alameda County children who died from 1994 to 2011 due to violence.

Just one day before the death of Newark teen Osana Futi, eight parents, who each lost a child to violence, read .

On that list was the slain teen's best friend, Justice Afoa — a then-17-year-old Newark student who was on Cedar Boulevard near Birch Street in Newark.

Futi, 18, after police found him bleeding near a home in Fremont's Blacow district.

Since 1996, the Children's Memorial Grove Ceremony has been an annual tradition, put on by former Alameda County District 2 Supervisor Gail Steele, to honor youth who lost their lives to violence within Alameda county and to raise general awareness of violence against children.

Justice and Futi are not the only teenagers who have been killed in Newark in the past decade.

This year marks 10 years since Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen from Newark, was murdered when she was 17 years old. Gwen's October 2002 death made national news after details surfaced that the violence erupted after a group learned the teenager was born a male.

Also remembered was 17-year-old Johnny Jarigue, a Newark teen who was shot to death in February 2005.

During the Friday ceremony, Karen Yifru from Union City gazed at the row of flags flapping in the wind at the memorial located at the top of Fairmont Ridge to find her son's,

"It's a day where you can come and remember and grieve," said Yifru. "You never stop grieving the death of a child."

Two bells were rung for each of the nearly 400 names read. To honor and remember the 14 children who died in 2011, a permanent plaque with the names of the children was installed on the octagonal stone memorial as well as the courtyard in front of the Alameda County Office in Oakland.

"Sometimes the death of one child can go unnoticed and unremembered except to the families," Said Dolores Johnson, a parent from Oakland who lost both her sons (Tshata Johnson, 17, and Malik Johnson, 16) to gun violence in 1986 and 1995.

The ceremony almost didn't happen this year due to staff announcing it's withdrawl from hosting. Former District 2 Supervisor Gail Steele, who spearheaded the memorial and ceremony, stepped in to keep it moving forward with the help of the Children’s Memorial Grove Parent Committee and the East Bay Regional Park District. The ceremony occurs each year on the forth Friday of April.

Pastor Tommy Smith of Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward, was one of several speakers during the ceremony. He commended the parents for pulling good out of such tragedies.

"Something is only lost if you don't know where it is, but we know these children are with the God that made them," he said. "People have come together in their grief and embraced each other in their grace."

Scroll through the photos listed above. You can also read the names of all the children whose names were read during the ceremony in the attached PDF.

Newark Patch Editor Nika Megino contributed to this report.

Margaret Jean Mikel May 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Thanks to the devoted Gail steel!
Stephanieee May 01, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Was Marco Reyes On That List Too ?
Nika Megino May 02, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Unfortunately it does not seem so. I believe Marco Reyes was 19 at the time of his death? The list seems to note only those who lost their lives before the age of 18.


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