They are all victims of homicides within the City of Sanford.
But one name prompted the discussion that took place in city hall Monday night, as well as many of the public discussions within Sanford in past months – Trayvon Martin.
The removal of his memorial from The Retreat at Twin Lakes and subsequent outcry from the community led city officials to hold a “community conversation” Monday to discuss how Martin – and all other victims of violence in Sanford – should ultimately be memorialized within the city.
City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. began the meeting with a list of 25 names – all victims of homicide within the last five years in the City of Sanford.
“This meeting is not about the memorial for Trayvon Martin,” he said. “What this meeting is… is to have community conversations on what is an appropriate way to have a tribute.”
And while some believed each victim in Sanford should be memorialized equally, others argued Martin should stand apart for his impact on the community and the start of these conversations.
Sanford resident Tonetta Foster said, “Whatever you do for one, you do it for all. I understand that Twin Lakes is a community, but we all live in the community.”
Foster lives on Cypress Avenue where a shooting occurred in October of last year killing Corey Donaldson. She argued a memorial to him was left on the side of the road to fall apart, while Martin’s memorial was collected and preserved.
Donaldson’s father, Pastor Calvin Donaldson Sr., was also in the crowd and admitted that his home is divided on whether a memorial at the site of one’s death is appropriate. He did not want to be reminded of how his son died, he said.
“But where does the change come?” he said. “What we have to do as a people is unite ourselves and organize to the point to recognize that everybody that’s here does have value regardless to whether you are red, yellow, black or white – you have value.”
In the vein of equality, others proposed that a central site honoring all victims of violence be erected in the city.
Resident Sherri Wilkie suggested the city build something similar to the veterans’ memorial in Sanford where families could purchase a brick or plaque to recognize their lost one.
“Maybe there needs to be some kind of memorial for all 25 people listed on the list,” she said. “But can’t we come together as a city and say let’s put it in one place?”
Resident Trish Thompson took the idea one step further, stating the city should honor all victims of violence from across the world.
“We want to honor the people that have died and we want to give the living a place that they can pray and have a place that they can feel a sense of serenity about their loved one,” she said.
Although most seemed to agree a memorial for all of Sanford’s homicide victims should be erected, some also believed Martin is worthy of a separate memorial.
“I think it's important that Trayvon Martin be singled out for a memorial,” said resident Jay Jurie. “I think that this was enough of an important event…that it needs to be kept in the forefront.”
Dr. Sharon Patterson agreed, saying Martin unveiled the voice of those in the community that were being held quiet.
“His [Martin’s] life is different because he revealed to the city and the world all the injustice,” she said.
Some even said they are pushing for a statue of Martin to be erected in the city, as well as the return of the original memorial in front of The Retreat at Twin Lakes.
Others focused on the underlying issues in the community and said a conversation about memorials does not address larger complications within the city.
Resident and Pastor Thelma Mike said, “If I had my rathers, I would ask for a city truck and a city crew to go all over the City of Sanford and take up every memorial until we could come together as a city to resolve the problem that is down in our hearts that was festering long before Trayvon Martin ever came to visit his father.”
Despite the community conversation held Monday, city officials currently have no plans for a memorial within the City of Sanford. However, as part of the city’s nine-point plan laid out by Community Relations Director Andrew Thomas, the city does plan to address violence in the community and execute some type of outreach in the form of an anti-violence campaign.