After his son was murdered in 2007, Jay Donaldson began building a legacy to turn the tide of gun violence that has risen to devastating levels among young black men.
He started P.R.O.M.I.S.E., an intervention effort that began with rallies and has grown to sponsor annual gatherings to remember lost loved ones and a three-day basketball camp that his older son, Jakim Donaldson, initiated and runs.
On Saturday, the annual gathering in Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side included speakers, food, music and prayer.
Jehru Donaldson would have turned 25 last month. He was shot on Brighton Place in California-Kirkbride in 2007 while waiting in his father’s car for his girlfriend’s nephews. He was going to take them to a Pirates game.
Witnesses told police that twins Devon and Jovon Knox had thought Jehru was in a gang and had warned him to stay off Brighton Place. They were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2008.
Jehru was an honor student at Oliver High School, where he was the homecoming king, played football and basketball, and ran track.
His aunt, Mary Adams, said the ills of violence are attributable in part to rejection of the things that should ground us and tie us to our culture and community.
She said the mentors of long ago were elders but that TV and pop culture have rejected elders. It’s particularly poignant for black Americans because respecting and serving elders is “an old African custom,” she said. “One of the reasons we have survived, even when we were in slavery, was because our elders reached back to pull us up.”
She said that even though her son and nephew were killed, “I do not want to retaliate, but that’s because the power of God has grown in me.”
Greg Townsell, an attendee, was asked to speak by Mr. Donaldson. Mr. Townsell said he has lost several family members and friends to gun and other forms of violence.
“It’s so easy to stir each other up because of the pain we’ve felt,” he said from a small stage. “But the war continues every time you participate in things that hurt another person. Power belongs to God. Let him take care of the ones who killed your baby.”
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626.