Pleasantville residents march against gun violence and remember slain 10-year-old

Residents call for “Hands up! Guns down!” at a march about a week after the high school football playoff game that resulted in a 10-year-old’s death.

A group of male community leaders lead the march in recognition of the particular impact gun violence has on black men in the community. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

A group of male community leaders lead the march in recognition of the particular impact gun violence has on black men in the community. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

They marched to Pleasantville High School Saturday, about 150 adults and children, to declare that enough is enough when it comes to gun violence.

The march took place in the aftermath of the death Wednesday of 10-year-old Micah “Dew” Tennant from injuries he suffered in a Nov. 15 shooting at the South Jersey high school. The boy was there to watch a playoff football game between the Pleasantville Greyhounds and the Camden High School Panthers.

Chants included calls for “Hands up! Guns down!” and “Each one, reach one!” The latter chant alluded to one of the takeaways from the march: to be more involved in the lives of young people.

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“I believe that many other parents need to become more visible,” said Lonniyell Sykes, the march’s organizer. “If you cannot be visible — because I understand that many parents have jobs and they can’t be at every single thing — pull in one of your village people to stand in the gap for you, so they can see that somebody’s there for them.”

Sykes, also known as “Lonniyell the Community,” is an activist who has worked to bring awareness to the violence in Atlantic County. She said young people are often by themselves.

“If [parents] become more visible with [their] children, then a lot of stuff would stop,” she said.

Lonniyell “The Community” Sykes leads the crowd in chants like “Hands up, guns down,” “Our community matters,” and “Stop the voilence.” (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

The march began at a playground on Woodland Avenue near Fourth Street and ended at the high school stadium where the shooting took place.

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Pleasantville School District’s interim superintendent, Dennis J. Anderson, participated in the march and was among several speakers.

“I was just continuing to dwell on what had happened, how tragic it was, how unbelievable it was, the disbelief from just within myself,” he said of the last nine days.

“Just being able to walk together with folks, even chanting, ‘Stop the violence,’ ‘Hands up, guns down,’ ‘Young lives matter,’ just for me was cleansing and started the healing process,” Anderson said.

Interim Superintendent of the Pleasantville School District, Dennis J. Anderson, addresses the crowd at the march at Pleasantville High School on Saturday. He apologized to young people on behalf of his generation for failing to stop violence. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Christopher Wright, a member of the football team, was on the field when the shooting happened.

“I thought it was a firecracker,” Wright said, “so I turned around to see where it was.”

He then realized a gun had gone off.

“I ran as fast as I could to the gate,” he said, “we were jumping and pulling the fence down.”

In remarks to the crowd, Wright described the moment as a “violent nightmare” while “feeling lost and helpless, life frozen flat” before his eyes. “It felt as though we could not run fast enough to safety.”

Pleasantville High School class Vice President and football player Christopher Wright addresses the crowd at Pleasantville High School. He encouraged unity among the community. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

But Wright, heartbroken over Tennant’s death, said he hopes there is more awareness of gun violence after the march.

He spoke alongside Khaliyah Haraksin, president of the freshman class, who thought the march was a good idea.

“Other people may think, ‘It’s a march, what are you doing to change?’ but it’s showing that the community can come together for something that happened that was a devastating event,” she said.

The shooter was “very heartless and oblivious” to kids being at the game, Haraksin said.

“Everyone feels for the fact that Micah was only 10; he was a young child,” she said. “And it’s hard because he’s from here and it’s rare to have any situations like this happen in Pleasantville.”

Pleasantville High School class President Khaliyah Haraksin addresses the crowd and condemns gun violence. (Becca Haydu for WHYY)

Alvin Wyatt, one of six men arrested in connection with the shooting at the game, has been charged with murder in Tennant’s death. The Atlantic County prosecutor also has charged the 31-year-old with attempted murder and another offense.

The intended target of the shooting, 27-year-old Ibn Abdullah, was charged with bringing a weapon to the game.

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