CommunityHamil R. Harris

Anger Colors Grief in D.C.’s Ward 8 as City, Community Leaders Mourn 6-Year-Old Girl’s Death

Arrest Made in Drive-By Shooting of Nyiah Courtney

Balloons festoon the intersection of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X avenues in southeast Washington, marking the sidewalk and utility poles outside the liquor store where a 6-year-old riding a scooter was cut down in a hail of bullets that wounded five others last week.

Anger and grief marked an impromptu rally Saturday at the site of the July 16 drive-by shooting in which Nyiah Courtney was killed.

“Lord, we come here with a heavy heart mourning what happened to our daughter,” said Rev. Vincent Van, religious affairs committee chairman for the D.C. chapter of the NAACP. ”We come here, Lord, inspired, knowing that if we can be together like this, we can build a community that we deserve.”

He was speaking at a curbside rally that was attended by dozens of community leaders and organized by Salim Adofo, chair of NAACP Criminal Justice Committee in D.C. and a Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner.

The NAACP's D.C. branch and ANC Commissioner Salim Adofo called 100 Black men for a peace and empowerment rally on July 24 in response to the surge in gun violence and recent mass shootings in southeast D.C. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
The NAACP’s D.C. branch and ANC Commissioner Salim Adofo called 100 Black men for a peace and empowerment rally on July 24 in response to the surge in gun violence and recent mass shootings in southeast D.C. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

“Our goal is to connect the residents of this immediate community with the resources that they need as it pertains to block grants, mental health and educational opportunities,” Adofo said. “We want to change the image of Black males in this community.”

“I am saddened to be here today because you would think that we have gotten past this disease called murder,” said Minister Kadir Muhammad, imam of Muhammads Mosque No. 4.

“My people perish for the lack of knowledge,” Muhammad said, quoting parts of Isaiah 26:21. “For behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”

In addition to speeches, organizers held a community walk that encountered the diversity of Ward 8.

“I moved out 10 years ago. I’m from New Jersey and I come from a place where you make an investment in places where you live,” said Mathew Faden. “It never hurts just to show up, when they drive by they see that.”

Shelena Hollinger, a local human resources manager and Ward 8 resident, said of the prospects for progress in the ward.

“We can’t have opportunities like this and be fearful of those opportunities,” Hollinger said.

Reflecting on the 6-year-old’s death, Hollinger said, “It breaks my heart. My grandchildren are 7, 4 and 2.”

D.C. police arrested Marktwan Hargraves, 22, of Waldorf, Md., on July 28. He was charged with murder.

“The prayers of the community have been answered,” D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said at a news conference Wednesday.

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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