Fridge Mural Commemorates 5 Lives Lost to Gun Violence in School Year 2017 – 18
by Larry Janezich
Lauryn Renford’s grief over the death of her boyfriend Zaire Kelly – shot during an attempted robbery in 2017 – inspired her to seek a way to memorialize him. That idea became a larger project to help call attention to the gun violence visited upon the city’s youths and to spur the community to do something about it. She co-founded the student advocacy group – Pathways 2 Power – based in Thurgood Marshall High School – that unveiled the mural on the wall of The Fridge, Barracks Row’s art space at 516 8th Street, SE, rear alley last Friday evening.
Dubbed “The Limestone of Lost Legacies Mural Project,” the mural is an effort to make sure the community remembers these lost lives, envisions the potential these kids had, and urges people to take action.
Pathways 2 Power raised nearly $13,000 to fund the project. Alex Goldstein, owner of The Fridge, provided the wall space. Local artist Martin Swift painted the mural. Attorney General Karl Racine lent his presence and his praise for Renford to the unveiling.
In her remarks, Renford remembered the five victims whose portraits adorn the wall:
Paris Brown: a creative student who enjoyed telling his story through wordplay.
Jamahri Sydnor: a college-bound young woman who was loud and proud on her cheerleading team.
Steve Slaughter: a ninth-grader who had the deepest passion for football.
Taiyania Thompson: a 16-year-old with a family that claims the sun would not shine without her.
Zaire Kelly: a twin-brother who was passionate about the inequities in our city, like gentrification.
Renford said that when she began the project in 2017, she had three goals: first, to humanize the victims, second to have the mural live in a neighborhood with residents who live their everyday lives without gun shots in their backyards, and third, to use this work of art to rally people to action.
She hopes that every time someone walks past the mural, they will reflect on what they can do to further the conversation and end the epidemic of gun violence.
As of yesterday, there have been 101 homicides in DC. Renford, who won a four year scholarship to George Washington University, pledges to continue her work against gun violence.