A vigil will be held to honor Ajike “AJ” Owens and to protest gun violence by community groups in Alachua County.
The vigil will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the GNV Bridge Community Center (1100 SE 17th Dr.).
“As a community center and a church, our hearts break for those whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence,” said Amy Raburn, lead pastor of GNV Bridge in a press release. “Any part we can play in bringing awareness to this epidemic that is harming so many, is a cause we should all support.”
Owens, a black mother of four, was shot and killed on June 2 in Ocala by her white neighbor after her neighbor allegedly assaulted one of Owens’ children by throwing a pair of skates at them and saying racial slurs. When Owens and her 10-year-old son went to the neighbor’s home to confront her, the neighbor shot Owens through the locked front door. The neighbor, 58-year-old Susan Lorincz, is being charged with manslaughter and Owens’ family recently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case as a hate crime, according to the Black Information Network.
“When I think of Ajike and how she risked her life to stand up for her children, I think of how my mom would have done the same for me,” said Essence Thomas, artistic director of the Against All Odds Movement, in a press release. “I believe in the power of community and love. We need one another. We are all we got. Whether we scream, laugh, dance, or shed tears, it all is a part of a hurting community's cry for a mother’s courage, one we all felt heavily in our hearts.”
The vigil will feature speakers, dancing, poetry, and song, and will end with a candlelight vigil and call to action.
Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense who is a black woman and a mother of four, said she was outraged over the incident.
“Yet again, thanks to our country’s lax gun laws and hate-fueled violence, four children will grow up without a mother. All for what? Stand Your Ground laws and the ‘shoot first’ culture they instill continue to put Black people and people of color in danger. These laws empower shooters to instigate violence or act on unjustified fear – and then claim self-defense and avoid accountability.”