Recovered shooting victim leads march against gun violence

Warm sunny days are known to trigger spikes in gun violence, but rainy gray ones don’t exactly delay shootings. As such, Daje Shelton didn’t allow rainy weather Saturday to stop her and others from marching against gun violence through north St. Louis.  

“People get murdered in the rain, so why not,” said the 22-year-old Shelton, who is no stranger to gunfire and bloodshed. She has been shot twice at ages 15 and 16, and her first cousin was shot to death last summer.

“I’m tired of seeing my brothers and sisters kill each other,” Shelton said, wearing a blue rain poncho, and explaining why she organized the march.

“It’s not just brothers shooting brothers, it’s brothers shooting sisters, and the kids, we keep missing that point,” remarked Rev. Darryl Gray, who prayed over the demonstrators before and after the march.

“We got three pastors out, the church is present.  Just tell us where to be and we will be there,” said Gray.

Fellow pastors Roderick Burton and Corey Scott also marched.

Shellie Boaze, a community activist, who marched alongside Shelton through most of the procession, said she too is elated to get behind young people who step up and do something.

“There are so many non-profits in St. Louis, but they don’t seem to be helping because shootings keep happening.  So we need to listen to the young people,” the 49-year-old said.

Regarding women getting shot and killed at higher rates, Boaze, said, “times are different from when I grew up. Girls hang out within the crossfire and are exposed to more violence.”

Marchers first assembled on the parking lot of retail strip at the corner of Natural Bridge Blvd. and Newstead Ave. They proceeded east to Grand Blvd., marching south to Cass Ave., merging onto Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., continuing west. Shelton routed the last leg of the march north, down a stretch of Billups Ave., where her cousin was killed.

“Sometimes, I like to just go by there and think about what and who I’m doing this for,” said Shelton who helped clean up the crime scene where her cousin was killed.

“Brothers, can’t you see, you’re hurting me,” marchers chanted as they turned down that avenue. At other times during the march, they called and responded, “when Black lives are being attacked, what do we do? Stand up, fight back; stop the violence, stop the bloodshed.”

The march ended at Cottage Ave. adjacent to Sumner High School where a discussion ensued.

Ward 3 Alderman Brandon Bosley, known for his suggestion of bringing in the National Guard to combat violence here, showed up and addressed marchers, saying he has been marching since he was 7- and 8-years-old.  

“And I’m still marching and seeing people get their head blown off by people that look like them,” he said.  “We shooting with kids outside, not caring who we’re hitting. That’s a big problem.”

Bosley continued saying, “No disrespect, but we can march every single day, but somebody can come shoot us all up right now and we’ll be the only people standing right here fighting for the entire city of St. Louis and those individuals will get away with it and go do the same thing to someone else trying to stand up,” Bosley said.

Janet Moore, who survived a 22-caliber bullet to her head 14 years ago, on the same block where Shelton’s cousin was killed, said she felt compelled to march.

“I’m just trying to help save this generation.  They are dying in our eyes and we have to make it go away,” said Moore, 35. God left me here for something.”

The march was sparsely attended, but impactful, Shelton said.

“We reached a lot people marching through north St. Louis.

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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