On Aug 4, 2007, three college-age Newarkers were murdered and a fourth nearly killed after having been attacked on the playground of Mount Vernon School in Newark.
For a blogger trying to cover the story of a city in resurgence, it was difficult for me to even consider about how to approach the subject. The crime was not a gang warfare-related premeditated attack. It didn’t fit a pattern of violence for a comparatively peaceful neighborhood. It was just senseless evil, carried out on citizens of our city.
There was no lack of coverage of the event as national media trucks rolled into Newark to put some semblance of a narrative together that explained why these kids with promising futures lost their lives. I just didn’t write anything.
So it’s with great admiration that I can link to a story about someone who was willing to unflinchingly cover not only the incident of Aug 4th, but the personal toll it took on the family of Iofemi Hightower.
For what seemed a small eternity, Shalga Hightower epitomized the picture of parental grief in the aftermath of Newark’s 2007 schoolyard killings, when a group of men and boys, including one who turned 15 that day, lined up her college-bound daughter and two friends and shot them each in the back of the head.
As national media held Newark up as a symbol of the gun violence plaguing American cities, Hightower became an unwavering presence at the dozens of court proceedings that followed. Her courtroom vigil stretched nearly six years, long after the initial crush of attention subsided.
The overpowering sorrow that engulfed her has eased over time, but Hightower’s determination to honor her daughter’s memory has not. Recently, she embarked on a documentary film project that highlights the struggle of families victimized by gun violence, through the prism of her own experience.