MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It is just the beginning of March, and the number of victims that have died from gun violence has increased, especially for our youth. The Memphis non-profit, Ride of Tears, took a ride on Sunday, March 6 to raise awareness, begging people to "put the guns down and save our babies."
Although the organization takes a ride to pay respect to victims who die from gun violence every month, the goal is to not have to take these kinds of rides at all.
On Sunday's ride, members of the organization rallied together and rode to the places where three young people died due to some form of violence this year.
Residents and loved ones of three victims of violence also joined for a time of commemoration and honor, but it still did not take away the pain and confusion.
15-year-old Damien Smith, Jr. was shot and killed outside of a residence on Ratcliff Lane in Memphis on Valentine's Day when he was on his way to an after-school program.
Smith's Aunt, Andrea Vaughn expressed that she and the family have been trying to process this devastation.
“Do I have my days where I am weak and not as strong as I am today? I do, but I still have faith in God," Vaughn said. “This young man felt the need to use his gun and shoot at some kids, which is not something that I understand, but unfortunately my nephew was one of the kids who lost his life out of five.”
2-year-old Charvez Atkins also recently died of gun violence in North Memphis inside of his grandmother’s home on Clayton Avenue.
His uncle stated that people have to start thinking before they act.
“I just want to make it aware that not just gun violence, but child safety…put your weapons away if you have any. If you have kids, put your weapons away, and…people are leaving this earth very young and they don’t have a chance at life."
Vice President of the Ride of Tears non-profit organization, Kenny Lee, explained how he hates that this has been a monthly routine.
“I don’t know what it is going to take, but the Ride of Tears is going to continue to ride until somebody says something and somebody needs to do something,” Lee said.
Members of the organization and family members of the victims expressed how there needs to be a change in the system.
“We need tougher laws against homicides in Memphis," Vaughn said. "We also need tougher gun laws, but until that happens, we’re going to keep burying kids and people just in general within this city."
The organization recently expanded its outreach. It is now touring 40 cities to raise awareness. So far the organization has visited Mississippi and Arkansas.
For more information on how to get involved, click here.