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Six Baltimore families honor loved ones lost to gun violence through tree planting memorials

Families affected by gun violence in Baltimore plant trees in Druid Hill Park to honor deceased loved ones on May 24, 2023. Photo by Danielle J. Brown.

Dominique Anderson, 46, came to Druid Hill Park in Baltimore on Tuesday evening to plant a tree in honor of her daughter, Tykia Snipe, who was killed by gun violence in 2019 at just 21 years old.

“She was just everything. She was just such a joy. Loved dancing and singing — she wanted to be a professional singer,” Anderson said. “She lit up every room she ever entered. People just fell in love with her.”

Anderson was taking part in a tree planting memorial for victims, along with five other families who have lost loved ones due to gun violence. The event was organized by the Baltimore Tree Trust in collaboration with Baltimore Peace Movement.

According to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maryland ranks 30th in the highest-rate of firearm-related mortality in the United States, with 915 deaths recorded for that year.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) recently signed Senate Bill 1, a measure passed this legislative session that seeks to prohibit open carry in Maryland and restricts where people can have guns. The legislation, which takes effect Oct. 1, was immediately challenged in court.

For Anderson, visiting a growing tree to honor Tykia will bring her comfort as she continues to cope with the loss of her daughter.

“This right here means so much because instead of visiting her at the cemetery, I can now come to this wonderful tree…letting me feel that she’s still here,” she said. “This vision, as opposed to just looking at a headstone, is just so much better.”

This was the third tree planting memorial organized by the groups to honor victims of gun violence in the city. Baltimore Tree Trust is a non-profit aiming to create more tree coverage in the city. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Peace Movement, formerly known as Baltimore Ceasefire 365, wishes to curtail gun violence.

“We’ve been able to really build this larger picture of what trees are to the safety of Baltimore, and that’s health safety, that’s crime safety — it’s really helping to expose what all the tree benefits could have on a community,” said Ryan Alston, communication and outreach director for the Baltimore Tree Trust.

Families and loved ones gather on May 23, 2023, at a newly planted tree memorializing Jeremiah Harper, who was killed in 2018 at age 22 due to gun violence. Photo by Danielle J. Brown.

Another tree was decorated with purple balloons and orange-dyed roses. That tree is a memorial to Jeremiah Harper, known as “Dinka” by her family, who was killed in 2018 at 21 years old.

“Her life was cut short because of the violence in Baltimore City,” said Jeremiah’s aunt, Janeah Lucas, 40.

Adonna Black, 43, described Jeremiah as “full of life, beautiful young lady, fun, high energy.”

Black said that visiting the tree might help bring closure to the families who lost their loved ones to gun violence. Lucas agreed.

“It’s remembrance,” Lucas said. “That they’re not just a number … of someone murdered in the city. It’s putting a face to the memory. It’s putting honor behind her name.”


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Six Baltimore families honor loved ones lost to gun violence through tree planting memorials