Saturday, August 05, 2000

Recalling lives lost to violence

Memorial chance to honor, heal

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For Dante Dunn, the pain of his mother's sudden death is never far from his mind.

        The 17-year-old Over-the-Rhine resident was 8 when his mother was killed in a robbery at the Central Parkway Days Inn. But now Dante and others shaken by violence may have the chance to heal and remember.

[photo] Bonnie Kirby Brown visits the Memorial to Our Lost Children at City Hall on Friday.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Memorial to Our Lost Children, a project of Art for a Child's Safe America Foundation, was dedicated Friday at City Hall.

        “This is giving people a chance to let their feelings out,” said Dante, who contributed his mother's driv er's license to the memorial.

        “It shows that people aren't going to stand for violence, and it's a way of giving homage to those who died.”

        Yolanda King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke at the ceremony. She was named the honorary chairwoman of the Memorial to Our Lost Children project, succeeding Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

        “This is in the best tradition of the arts,” Ms. King said. “It not only serves to move people emotionally, but it is a catalyst for change.”

        Every 36 minutes in the United States a child is shot; every 90 minutes, a child is killed, Ms. King said.

        “By the day after tomorrow, we will have lost the equivalent of an entire classroom,” she said.

        The memorial, designed by Columbus artist Stephen Canneto, consists of a small, white house, split in half.

        “This house is broken apart because 80 percent of families that experience violence cease to function,” said Mr. Canneto, founding director of Art for a Child's Safe America Foundation, who built a similar memorial in Columbus. The foundation was incorporated in 1995.

        Outside the house is a toy box filled with hundreds of crushed and welded guns.

        “The metaphor here is the intrusion of guns in what should be a playful childhood and the consequences of guns in our communities,” Mr. Canneto said.

        He spent three months at the Pickaway Correctional Institute near Orient, Ohio, and built the memorial with the help of 12 inmates.

        “As one inmate put it, it gave them a chance to do good and not just be part of the violence,” Mr. Canneto said.

        Ms. King said she felt an instant connection with the parents and siblings of those memorialized, who can be heard talking about their losses on an interactive video accompanying the memorial.

  • Through Sept. 29: City Hall, 801 Plum St. Admission is free.

  • October: Millennium Monument Center, home of the World Peace Bell, at Fourth and York streets, Newport.

  • Starting Nov. 1: The memorial moves among schools and community centers in Greater Cincinnati.

        “I know that loss,” she said, refering to her father's 1968 assassination. “I know what it's like to have your loved one there and then to be gone the next moment.

        “One thing that helped my family so much was support from our church and community. This memorial can do the same thing for these families.”

        Inside the memorial are shelves with mementos of children and adults who lost their lives to violence in Greater Cincinnati.

        On one shelf is a picture of Alexandra Neely, who was slain in 1996 when she was 1 month old.

        Next to the Boone County baby's picture is a one-piece Winnie the Pooh jumpsuit with the price tag still on it.

        The smile of a Springfield Township college freshman, slain March 6, 1994, near the Ohio State University campus, was frozen in time on another shelf. Next to the picture of Stephanie Hummer, 18, was a pair of black-and-white Adidas shoes, a reminder of the Finneytown High School soccer player.

        Her Ohio State University planner was also on display. Stephanie had written in green ink a note on a geology final she would never take. It was dated March 17.


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