Powerful memorial to young lives lost

Written by Peter Smith on .


A powerful new exhibit opened Wednesday night at Center of Life, a faith-based organization in Hazelwood.

The impetus for it came a while back when the Rev. Timothy Smith recognized he had presided at the funerals of far too many black youth and young adults, most of them male, who had died of gun violence. Their families and communities needed some more permanent way of preserving their memories, he said.

The exhibit is titled, "I Live. We Lived. What Did We Miss?" It was assembled in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon University School of Design and members of the greater Hazelwood community.

Part of the inspiration, Rev. Smith said, came from observing the powerful "Keeping Tabs" Holocaust memorial at nearby Community Day School. In order to have students there understand what six million of anything look like, the school had them collect that many tabs from soda cans and put them into a star-shaped memorial.

The new exhibit at Center of Life is epic in its sweep. It includes photos, artifacts and written memories of when Hazelwood was a strong community knit by a local school, a main street lined with businesses and plenty of employment down the hill at the J&L steel mill. All that is gone, and local residents are quoted as saying when the bonds of community frayed, the violence rose.

There are photos and videos of grieving mothers and other relatives and friends who speak of lost loved ones. There are images of newspaper briefs about past murders in Hazelwood, interspersed with photos of victims and their artifacts, such as sneakers and shelves filled with athletic trophies.

In one of the most poignant parts of the exhibit, a tall wall is filled with picture frames of all shapes and sizes -- empty.

It's enough to make any viewer grieve for the individuals, the families and the community.

Yet the exhibit also displays many examples of community resiliency, from anti-violence drawings of children to portraits of people actively working to stem the violence and provide support to one another.

A good chance to view the exhibit is May 20 from noon to 4 at the Hazelwood Family Festival. The church is at 161 Hazelwood Ave.




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