On Tuesday, March 28, we lost another innocent life. 19 year-old Vastoria Lucas was gunned down in James Cayce Public Housing Complex.  She was walking with a friend one minute and the next, she was dead; reportedly shot multiple times.  According to reports, the shooting took place about 5:30 p.m., near a playground off 7th Street South.  Kevin C. Smith, 28, has been charged with criminal homicide in connection with the fatal shooting. He has confessed.

On Friday, a group of us gathered at the site where this beautiful young lady was gunned down. We talked to the children, we prayed, we listened.  They wanted to feel “whole,” not like parts of a human skeleton, with pieces of their bodies scatted to the wind;  but whole, complete, loving human beings.

Howard Jones with Cayce Public Housing families

We placed flowers, where Vastoria’s lifeless body once lay.  Her family, neighbors and friends talked of her beautiful spirit and her plans for graduation from Stratford High School this May.  She was once a kind, loving active young teenager, and in the blink of an eye, she lay dead on the cold ground, with blood spewing from all parts of her body, to breathe no more.

Love heals. It strengthens and it helps to cure hurt, loneliness and fear.  Love overcomes hate and it can drive a nail through a coffin of discouragement and despair. A loving touch can heal a wounded heart.  It can turn depression into happiness.  Love can turn a possible suicide into hope for a better tomorrow.

Many of the children in Cayce Homes are desperate for love, and it is up to us to give it to them unconditionally, so that they can fashion a better way of life.  We must have faith in ourselves, so that we can infuse love in our children and all of our communities.  Loving God with all your heart, mind and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself is a significant way to Stop the Killing!  We must know ourselves in order to love ourselves, and unite for the good of self.

Education and Employment opportunities can change these types of shootings, I am convinced.  Giving young people, the 28 year old shooter, and others hope through opportunities can change their way of thinking and help them strive for a better quality of life.  Teachers should equip themselves with knowledge of our children and help them to see themselves as the builders of civilizations—becoming artisans and craftspeople to learn ways to improve society rather than clamor for death.

When our team visited the families at Cayce Homes, we were dressed in suits, from our day at work and brought that community love; something we should do more often, not just in a tragic situation.  As we were leaving, one young boy came to us and said, “Hey, where are you going?” He looked up to us and saw us as professions, and wanted us to stay and pour more love into his spirit…and we will return.

Public housing is not a bastion of despair for the downtrodden.  I grew up in Preston Taylor Public Housing Homes, with two parents, which was a blessing.  I grew up with love, support, discipline and infused with hope.  I had “lap time” and “slap time.” I accept the responsibility to do that for others.  Our children must not be ignored but loved.  It can turn a frown into a smile and energize us all to move forward with faith, hope, love and Peace.

Pastor Jones is the Senior Pastor at Fairfield M. B. Church and assistant principal at J.F. Kennedy Middle School.


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