DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A candlelight vigil Saturday night at Metropolitan Park brought together Jacksonville families affected by homicide. This is the third annual event hosted by Compassionate Warriors Inc.
For these families, it’s another day without their loved ones.
They came here to honor and to remember who they are, despite the way their loved ones were taken from them.
Ralaunda Bray’s son, TraDarius Alexander, was a victim of violence in Jacksonville.
“I was blessed with 18 years, and now I have to live the rest of my life without him,” Bray said.
She came to Metropolitan Park Saturday to be with families in situations like hers. They honored homicide victims to what they said was senseless violence in the city.
The families of homicide victims carry the weight of losing them. For some, they can’t help but remember what happened to their loved ones.
“Every morning when I wake up, every night when I go to bed he’s always on my mind.,” Bray said. “I still cry, the pain is still the same.”
Some of their cases were met with more violence, some cases unsolved, others have families finding ways to get justice for their loved ones. But still, they show up to this vigil.
Rhonda Phillips lost her son, Leon Bennett, in 2018.
“We didn’t get full justice for my son,” Phillips said. “I still stand here fighting for justice for everybody who’s lost their children.”
The family is honoring him through a foundation called Bennett’s voice for change.
They help children who lost parents to gun violence.
Phillips says her son is what keeps her encouraged.
“It just gives me every ounce of energy to just be everything that I can and be his voice,” Phillips said. “Every day is a fight. Every day you wake up you put your feet to the ground and every day I say why and every day I hear my son say ‘Momma you can do this’.”
“It’s bittersweet, it hurts,” Bray said. “But at the end of the day I have to make the best of it.”